Khalida Niaz

Afghan refugees living in Pakistan have welcomed the Islamabad High Court verdict wherein the ministry of interior has been directed to take steps for giving citizenship to foreigners’ children born in Pakistan.

Abdur Rehman (not his real name), an Afghan refugee who was born in Pakistan told TNN that this decision will resolve many of the refugee children in Pakistan as it would it make their movement easier besides enabling them to do business, apply for jobs and save them from the police pestering.

Earlier on Thursday, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah while hearing petition of Pakistan born Afghan refugee Fazal Haq’s had directed the authorities to implement court’s direction in the Sentor Hamdullah case.

Everyone born in Pakistan is a Pakistani

Justice Minallah told the interior ministry counsel that every child born in Pakistan was a Pakistani and he only needs birth certificate for this purpose.

He said that Pakistani law, like the United State allowed citizenship to those born here.

Umar Gillani Advocate, counsel for the petitioner told the court that his client has spent nearly 24 years of his life in Pakistan without being a citizen.

The court directed the interior ministry and Nadra to submit a report about the petitioner’s birth certificate next Friday.  Interior ministry’s petitioner assured the court that decision will made about the verification of the petitioner’s birth certificate.

On the other hand, Abdur Rehman, who is pursuing MPhil in defense and strategic studies said that his mother was also born in Pakistan.  He said that his family had migrated to Pakistan in 1979 after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and staying here since then.

Mr Rehman said that this decision should have been taken much too earlier as other countries give nationality very quickly. “Afghans are staying in Pakistan for many decades; however, not yet been given citizenship,” he said.

Article 4 of the Constitution of Pakistan provides for the citizenship of those who were born in Pakistan.

Refugee’s children are still worried

Mr Rehman though welcomed the decision; however, they were anxious about how getting Pakistani citizenship will affect their Afghan’s one or they will have to get visa to visit Afghanistan.

He said that those doing business close to border will face problems. At the same time, Mr Rehman said that he was worried about the verdict may not implement in letter and spirit and remain a pipedream.

“Sometimes back, Afghan citizens were allowed to open bank accounts but many of the accounts were closed soon after opening, causing immense problems to them for months,” he said.

However, he wondered that whether or not they will be treated in the same manner as rest of Pakistani or this citizenship will be in name alone.

He said that he was not Afghan citizen; however, added that they can get easily by showing their parents identity cards.

More than 4 million refugees came to Pakistan following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and more than 1.5 million of them were born in Pakistan; however, could not get Pakistani citizenship.

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