PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday issued a stay order, stopping authorities from deporting several Afghan artists and transgender persons until further orders.

A bench consisting of Justice Ijaz Anwar and Justice Wiqar Ahmad declared that police and other law-enforcement agencies shouldn’t take any “adverse action” against those Afghan nationals, who feared persecution on return to the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

The order was issued during a hearing into two petitions, including the one filed on behalf of 157 musicians and singers by Hashmatullah Omed, Rafi Hanif and Hameed Shahdai and the other by Ahmad Anwari alias Hooria and 16 other transgender persons.

It also appointed senior lawyer and former advocate general Aamir Javed as amicus curiae to provide legal expertise on legal points in light of international and national laws.

Petitioners fear persecution on return to Afghanistan

Mumtaz Ahmad, lawyer for the petitioners, argued that his clients had challenged the decision of the federal government to forcibly repatriate all unregistered Afghan nationals living in the country and they were among those Afghans.

He claimed that the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban put the lives of the local artists and transgender people in danger as the government had announced that it wouldn’t allow Afghan artists to perform in the country.

The lawyer said that like thousands of other Afghans, his clients fled their country along with their families and took shelter in Pakistan.

He said that the petitioners and their families were registered by the UN refugee agency, which gave them a token number, and their cases were under process.

Mr Ahmad requested the court to stop the federal government from deporting petitioners until their applications are decided by the UNHCR.

The counsel contended that under different international conventions the government was bound not to deport the petitioners.

When the bench asked petitioner Hashmatullah, a musician, whether he and other petitioners had entered Pakistan with a valid visa or any other travel document, he replied that only some petitioners had valid visas.

To another query by the bench, the petitioner said artists faced multiple threats in Afghanistan as the current Taliban regime was opposed to their profession.

An assistant attorney general said that there were several videos showing music programmes still organised in Afghanistan.

However, advocate Mumtaz Khan said that those were old videos but still, they’re circulating on social media.

He added that musicians and singers received threats of severe consequences.

The petitioners claimed that the Pakistani government had adopted the policy of forced return for refugees to Afghanistan in violation of international law, protocols, and agreements.

They requested the court to direct the government to allow them to live an untroubled life as refugees in the country.

Afghan musicians and singers came to the court along with their lawyer.

Hashmatullah told media persons after the hearing that they were thankful to the high court for allowing them to live in the country for the time being.

He said that he and other petitioners hoped that the government of Pakistan would accept their pleas for stay in the country on humanitarian basis.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2024

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