No decision on citizenship to immigrants, refugees: Mazari

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Tariq Virk

Islamabad

The government has not yet decided to grant citizenship to the children, of immigrants and refugees, born in Pakistan, Human Rights minister Shireen Mazari told National Assembly (NA) on Tuesday.

The minister gave a policy statement while responding to call attention notice, she said that the government would take all political parties on board before taking final decision and requested the political organisations to furnish their proposal on the issue.

She said that preceding regimes didn’t pay attention to this issue, adding that the incumbent government has started collecting data of immigrants and refugees, the data would produce before the parliament as the government has no intention to hide anything from the nation.

She said that the data will be collected with the assistance of UNHCR and local agencies and it will be shared with the National Assembly. “First time the government had started the collection of data, while government in the past had never touched this important issue” she added.

She said that the previous governments have entered into eight agreements with the United Nation not to send back the refugees.

She clarified that Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke to grant citizenship to the refugees on humanitarian grounds but the decision will be taken with consultation of political leadership of all federating units.

Akhtar Mengal, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Nafeesa Shah, former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Agha Hassan Baloch raised the issue.

Mengal said that the matter be discussed in the National Assembly for debate instead of sending it to the committees. He said, “We cannot give up our national entity and identity in the name of human rights.”

Shireen Mazari said that Citizenship Act 1951 confers everybody to become citizen of Pakistan whose birth took place in Pakistan.

She said, this is a legal issue and parliamentary committee will discuss on it first and then the matter will be put up for debate in the National Assembly.

The minister said this matter involves a lot of legal, political and humanitarian obligations which will be considered before taking final decision on the citizenship.

She said, “We cannot forcefully expel anybody form the country.”

She said that Islamic tradition also support giving rights of living to refugees if they have moved in.

Nafeesa Shah PPP MNA criticised Prime Minister’s statement regarding granting citizenship. She said that the government didn’t talk about the rights of the Pakistani migrated from within the country and residing in Karachi but it wants to give citizenship to foreigners.

Mazari said that this government first time ever is going to collect the data of the refugees. Births are taking place on daily basis without any registration, so we have to formulate a policy on the issue.

 

Minorities

Moreover, minister Mazari on Tuesday also met a delegation All Pakistan Hindu Panchayat, and told the delegation that PTI’s government was committed to resolving the issues being faced by the minorities.

She said that the incumbent government was cognizant of their problems and assured them all necessary measures for their early solution.

The delegation comprised Ramesh Kumar, Naresh Chand, Om Parkash, Parvez Lal, Atif Chowhan and others.