ISLAMABAD: The government sought on Wednesday time for submitting reply to the contentions raised in a 2009 petition seeking repatriation of about 237,000 Pakistanis stranded in Bangladesh.
Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt asked for time during the hearing of the case by a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk.
The petition was moved by Advocate Rashid-ul-Haq Qazi on behalf of the Stranded Pakistanis General Repatriation Committee and the Organisation for Repatriation of Stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh.
The court had on May 13 last accepted the petition for regular hearing after Mr Qazi said these stranded people were citizens of Pakistan either by birth or by descent.
The petitioner pleaded that after the dismemberment of Pakistan and emergence of a new state of Bangladesh, the two governments had committed to repatriating the stranded people to their countries and, therefore, the stranded Pakistani families were liable to be repatriated to their homeland.
The Pakistan government had no right under the constitution and the law to withhold the repatriation of its citizens, commonly known as Biharis, the petition said, adding that the government was bound under an April 19, 1974 tripartite agreement between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to normalise relations in the subcontinent which also included the repatriation of stranded people as early as possible.
The agreement was partially implemented when 325 stranded Pakistanis were brought back on Jan 10, 1993 and rehabilitated in Punjab’s Mian Chunnu and Muzaffargarh cities by the then Nawaz Sharif government.
The petition argued that leaving the rest of Pakistanis in Bangladesh would amount to gross discrimination and violation of Article 25 of the Constitution which called for equality of citizens. The government was also depriving them of their constitutional fundamental rights, it emphasised.
The petition also requested the court to order the government to look after the stranded Pakistanis living in camps and provide food and medicines till the time they were repatriated to Pakistan.
It contended that the government was legally bound to complete housing programmes to accommodate the repatriated citizens and in case of non-compliance it would be grossly breaching the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 4, 9, 19, 23 and 25 of the constitution.
Published in Dawn January 22nd , 2015