PM seeks uniform policy on citizenship for foreign investors

Published January 2, 2022
Prime Minister Imran Khan. — Photo courtesy: PMO Twitter
Prime Minister Imran Khan. — Photo courtesy: PMO Twitter

ISLAMABAD: Rejecting the idea of granting Pakistani citizenship to investors from Afghanistan alone, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that such a policy should not be limited to any single country.

According to official circles, the idea of granting permanent residency or citizenship to foreign nationals interested in investing in Pakistan was shared during a recent meeting of the Afghanistan Inter-ministerial Coordi­na­tion Cell (AICC), which was chaired by the prime minister.

The meeting specially focused on Afghan nationals living in Pakistan or those willing to leave the country after the rise of the Taliban.

The AICC is headed by the prime minister and consisting of the ministers for interior, foreign affairs and finance, the National Security Adviser, high-ranking officials from the armed forces and other relevant departments as well as the Board of Investment chairman.

Several countries are offering investment-based citizenship programmes

Sources told Dawn that Muhammad Azfar Ahsan, Minister of State and Board of Investment (BoI) chairman floated the idea of granting citizenship to Afghan investors in order to attract investment from Afghanistan. He suggested that Pakistan could tap significant investments by inviting Afghan millionaires and other investors belonging to Chinese regions like Hong Kong, Macau etc.

During the meeting, the PM is said to have welcomed the idea, observing that many countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, have introduced such policies to woo foreign investors.

However, participants of the meeting noted that such a policy should not be specific to any nation or country, as it could invoke their diplomatic ire.

“If there is a policy related to Afghan investors, the incumbent Taliban-led government would have objections to it,” an interior ministry official told Dawn, adding “it should be an open policy.”

Sources said that the PM has directed the BoI to work on a policy that covers all aspects with a proper mechanism for the practical implementation of this proposal.

BoI chairman Azfar Ahsan told Dawn, “We are looking at such a policy from all sides and it is essential to tap all options where the investments opportunities are available… but everything has to be under the national and international legal ambit.”

He clarified that by ‘we’ he meant all relevant government departments and sectors including the interior ministry, law division and even the security establishment.

“This policy should not be limited to the Afghan nationals only, but should be a broad-based, structured set-up to facilitate investors with legal standing and belonging to any part of the world,” the BoI chairman added.

On the other hand, an official of the interior ministry said that there were concerns from some quarters as Pakistan had to be cautious since it could not “behave like Saudi Arabia or Turkey” and some serious feedback was needed.

Traditionally, countries like Austria, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Malta, Montenegro, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, etc have been offering investment-based citizenship programmes.

While BoI is tasked with working on the policy document, sources said that it was initially proposed that any foreign national investing a minimum of $1m in Pakistan would be eligible for citizenship and that the details of all such investors would be shared with the provinces before the approval of each case.

Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2022


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