ISLAMABAD: With the Supreme Court set to take up on Friday (today) a case challenging mass deportation of Afghan nationals, a fresh petition was moved before the court on Thursday seeking a declaration that Afghan people’s children, who were born in Pakistan, are entitled to the country’s citizenship under section 4 of the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951.

Headed by Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, a three-judge SC bench which includes Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Ayesha A. Malik will hear the petition moved by former senator Farhatullah Babar through his counsel Umer Ijaz Gilani.

The fresh petition has been moved by the faculty members of LUMS in public interest, particularly in the interest of underprivileged and destitute persons of Afghan origin living in Pakistan.

Moved by Uzair J Kayani, Sadaf Aziz, Ali Raza, Angbeen Mirza, Madiha Tallat and Aisha Ahmad, the joint petition sought a declaration that the federal government’s Oct 3 decision to deport Afghans en masse was contrary to section 230 of the Elections Act 2017 and therefore of no legal effect.

SC to hear case today; fresh petition seeks return of those deported

The Supreme Court was urged to declare that mass deportation also violates sections 3, 4, 9 and 14(2) of the Foreigners Act 1946 and therefore ultra vires of the Constitution.

The petition sought restraining order against the federal and provincial governments and all law enforcement agencies from implementing the government’s decision and directions to revert to the previous procedure adopted for the registration and processing of asylum applications in collaboration with the UNHCR under previous agreements until such time as parliament enacts an appropriate asylum and refugee legislation consistent with Pakistan’s international obligations.

Regardless of their status, the petition argued, even if refugees were aliens or foreigners, the federal government was bound to treat them in accordance with the Constitution and international law.

The government’s decision not only fails to do so, but it directly violates the requirements of the Constitution and international law in respect of such persons.

The petition contends that as per the UNHCR, as of November 2023, undocumented Afghans were estimated to be 1.3 million. As per news reports, the federal government now estimates undocumented Afghan refugees at 1.7m, out of a total 4.4m living in Pakistan.

An estimated 600,000 new Afghan citizens arrived since August 2021 after the takeover by the Taliban. An estimated 300,000 of these have tried to approach the UNHCR to register as refugees, but the latter has not been permitted to do so.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2023

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