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Citizenship for Afghans, Bengalis opposed

Updated September 21, 2018

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PESHAWAR: Businessmen and traders on Thursday rejected the prime minister’s announcement for the grant of Pakistani citizenship to Afghan nationals living in the country for decades and warned that if the government made such a move, they would stop paying taxes and utility bills.

In separate statements, All Pakistan Commercial Exporters Association chairman Abdul Jalil, Peshawar Chamber of Small Traders and Small Industries senior vice president Haji Mamoor Khan and Markaz Tanzeem-i-Tajiran Khyber Pakhtunkhwa president Malik Mehr Ilahi urged the premier to withdraw announcement on citizenship for Afghans, Bengalis saying it has caused serious unrest among businessmen and traders.

Mr Jalil said the country had around four million Afghans and most of them lived in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where they completely controlled different businesses.

“These Afghan nationals are not paying any kind of tax and are in the habit of fleeing to own country whenever the Federal Board of Revenue or other tax collecting agency cracks down on tax evaders,” he said.

He said Pakistanis regularly paid taxes but didn’t get incentives.

Mr Mamoor said the premier had issued the citizenship statement without knowing ground realities.

“We (businessmen and traders) have been left with no option but to stop paying utility bills and taxes as the foreigners doing different businesses don’t pay taxes,” he warned.

Mr Ilahi said the grant of Pakistani citizenship to Afghans would turn the local population into a minority as the Afghan nationals had a majority in many areas, especially in markets.

He said various trader bodies of the province would hold a joint meeting after Ashura to take a unified stand on the matter.

“The traders of Peshawar have unanimously rejected the premier’s announcement on citizenship for Afghans,” he said.

The trader leader said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had already suffered heavily due to militancy but the successive governments had never considered it serious to support the people affected by it.

He said instead of awarding citizenship to foreigners, the government should focus on the resolution of the problems of own tax-paying citizens.

Mr Ilahi said Afghanis had controlled business in the country and if they were given citizenship, then the local traders won’t be able to do business.

He said before granting citizenship to Afghans, the government should seek proposals from stakeholders to make a decision in the best national interest.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2018