ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a petition moved in 2009 seeking repatriation of around 237,000 stranded Pakistanis from Bangladesh by the federal government.
A three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Saqib Nisar, dismissed the petition when Advocate Rashid-ul-Haq Qazi failed to satisfy that the cause he was advancing on behalf of the organisation was duly registered under relevant laws of the country.
Advocate Qazi was representing Stranded Pakistanis General Repatriation Committee (SPGRC) and the Organisation for Repatriation of Stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh.
“The petition is dismissed since the petitioner has no locus standi to plead the case as the organisation is not a registered firm besides it is also not a question of infringement of his personal fundamental rights,” the court observed.
During proceedings, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed also reminded petitioner that a Bangladesh high court in 2003 had declared stranded Pakistanis as citizen of Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Supreme Court also ratified it.
At the last hearing on Feb 18, the interior ministry had explained before the court 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, residing since that day voluntarily or otherwise would cease to be citizens of Pakistan.
It further stated that persons, who have not been repatriated before March 18, 1978, the date of amendment/insertion of subject section and whose repatriation has been agreed by the federal government shall continue to be citizens of Pakistan as provided under provision to clause (iv) of sub section 1 of section 16-A of the Citizenship Act, 1951.
In his petition, Advocate Qazi had pleaded that stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh were citizens of Pakistan by birth or by descent and that after dismemberment of East Pakistan from the West Pakistan and formation of new State of Bangladesh, it was the commitment of the federal governments of Pakistan and Bangladesh to repatriate all non-Bengali speaking Pakistanis from Bangladesh and all Bengali speaking Pakistanis to Bangladesh.
Pakistan is bound under the April 19, 1974, tripartite agreement between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to normalise relations in the sub-continent in the consequence of which these families have to be repatriated from Bangladesh without delay, the petition had pleaded.
The tripartite agreement was partially acted upon by the federal government and a group of 325 stranded Pakistanis were repatriated on Jan 10, 1993, and rehabilitated in cities of Punjab namely Mian Chunnu and Muzaffargarh during the previous government of Mian Nawaz Sharif, it recalled.
The petitioner further had said that leaving the rest of the stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh would amount to gross discrimination and hence violate Article 25 of the constitution that asked for the equality of citizens. By not repatriating these citizens to Pakistan, the government was also depriving them of their constitutional fundamental rights, the petition had emphasised.
Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2015