ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court took exception on Wednesday to failure of the Foreign Office and the cabinet division to answer contentions raised in a 2009 petition seeking repatriation of around 237,000 Pakistanis stranded in Bangladesh.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Amir Hani Muslim took up the petition moved by Advocate Rashidul Haq Qazi, representing the Stranded Pakistanis General Repatriation Committee and the Organisation for Repatriation of Stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh.
Also read: SC takes up petition on repatriation
The court ordered the ministries concerned to submit their comments on the petition within a week and warned that otherwise their secretaries would be called to explain the delay during the next hearing.
Deputy Attorney General Sohail Mahmood told the court that despite having been contacted several times both the FO and the cabinet division had failed to provide a reply, while the interior ministry had stated that the foreign ministry would be in a better position to respond to the contentions.
The interior ministry explained that under Section 16-A of the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951 all persons residing in those territories which before Dec 16, 1971 constituted the province of East Pakistan and were residing there since that day voluntarily or otherwise should cease to be citizens of Pakistan.
It said those who had not been repatriated before March 18, 1978, when the section was introduced, but whose repatriation had been agreed to by the government continued to be citizens of Pakistan under Clause iv of its Sub Section 1.
Cabinet Division Director Muhammad Aftab informed the court that a Bangladesh high court had declared stranded Pakistanis as citizens of Bangladesh in 2003 and that country’s supreme court had also ratified it.
The bench asked him to file written reply in this regard and adjourned the hearing for an indefinite period.
Published in Dawn February 19th , 2015