On his first visit to karachi after being elected as the Prime Minister, Imran Khan announced that Afghan and Bengali refugees born in Pakistan shall have citizenship as per the law everywhere in the world.
Khan has pledged to implement existing Pakistani laws that would grant citizenship to all Afghan and Bangladeshi refugees who were born on Pakistani soil, a major deviation from previous policy.
According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Pakistan is home to more than 1.39 million registered Afghan refugees, many of whom have been resident in the country for more than 30 years.
There are also more than 200,000 ethnic Bangladeshis in Pakistan, most of whom live in the southern city of Karachi. Many of them were stranded in the city after the war in 1971 when Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, gained independence.
Afghan refugees, have poured into Pakistan from its western neighbor for decades, first fleeing the Soviet invasion in the 1970s, and then the civil war that followed. Afghan Jihad was also a reason behind it.
Since 2001, a new wave of refugees followed the US invasion of Afghanistan, and the subsequent Taliban war to take back the country has been entering Pakistan.
“These poor migrants from Bangladesh, they have been here for more than 40 years, their children are grown now … we will give them passports and ID cards, as well as those Afghans whose children have been raised here, who were born here, we will also give them [citizenship],” said Khan in Karachi on Sunday.
“This happens in every country in the world, why is it that here we are inflicting such an injustice on these people?” he added.
Khan addressed this issue in the session of National Assembly, as well.
Some coalition partners, significantly BNP-Mengal leader, Sardar Akhtar Mengal walked out of assembly session following his serious concerns over this decision. Further talks between PTI and BNP-Mengal are going on.
The announcement is a massive deviation from the policy followed by previous governments, and could see the prime minister face confrontation with the Army which has often blamed Afghan refugees for violence throughout Pakistan.