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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court observed that Pakistan is a signatory to United Nations conventions safeguarding the rights of refugees and these agreements bind Pakistan.

A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, and comprising Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Ayesha A Malik, on Friday, heard a petition requesting the court to restrain the Federation from detaining, forcefully deporting or otherwise harassing Afghans who are either refugees or asylum-seekers and possess POR, ACC and asylum seeker applications issued by the UNHCR.

The petition has been filed jointly by Farhatullah Babar, Senator Mushtaq Ahmed, Amina Masood Janjua, Mohsin Dawar, Mohammad Jibran Nasir, Syed Muaz Shah, Pastor Ghazala Parveen, Imaan Zainab Mazari, Ahmad Shabbar, Advocate Imran Shafiq, Luke Victor, Sijal Shafiq, and Rohail Kasi.

The bench issued notices to the Federation, the apex committee, and the secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs. National Action Plan, an apex committee, chaired by Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar, on October 3 issued a deadline for foreign nationals to depart voluntarily or risk deportation by October 31. The court also issued notice to the attorney general for Pakistan.

More than 370,000 Afghans have fled Pakistan since October 1, after Pakistan vowed to expel more than a million undocumented refugees, mostly Afghans.

Justice Ayesha said the deportation was a complex issue requiring constitutional interpretation and suggested the constitution of a larger bench to further examine the issue. Earlier, Umar Gilani, representing the petitioners contended that that the “impugned directive” by the “apex committee” of the caretaker cabinet reversed a 45-year-old Pakistani state policy of hospitality and leniency towards refugees, asylum-seekers, and other migrants from the Afghan borders.

He argued against the interim government’s authority to evict illegal refugees, asserting a lack of constitutional mandate to do so. The caretaker government lacks the constitutional authority for conclusive decisions on policy matters, he added.

Gilani also raised concerns over the violation of human rights and alleged inhuman treatment of Afghan citizens by the government. Justice Afridi questioned what fundamental human rights had been violated during the eviction process. He replied that Articles 4, 9, 10A, and 25 of the Constitution had been violated.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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