The Peshawar High Court approved the applications of as many as 109 Afghan nationals married to Pakistanis and ordered the issuance of Pakistan Origin Card (POC) for them.
A two-member PHC bench comprising Justice Arshad Ali and Justice Waqar Ahmed announced the decision on the application, seeking POC for 109 Afghan nationals.
Thousands of Afghans have gone underground in Pakistan to avoid deportation, fearing for their lives if they return to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan following a hasty and chaotic withdrawal of US-led Western forces in 2021.
Saifullah Muhib Ullah Kakakhel appeared in court on behalf of the petitioner and maintained that any foreign national can avail the rights of a Pakistani through the POC. But the person having such a card cannot have a passport or cast a vote, he added.
Later, the court accepted their applications and ordered that all 109 Afghan nationals should be issued the card.
The court adjourned the hearing for a later date which will be decided by the registrar office and will inform the parties.
There are three types of cards issued to Afghan immigrants living in Pakistan. The Afghan Citizen Card issued by the National Database and Registration Authority allows Afghan nationals to live in the country with the status of a refugee.
The second card offered to refugees is Proof of Registration (PoR) card, offered through the UNHCR, that entitles them to legally remain in Pakistan. The PoR card holders are entitled to receive funding and facilities coming from international aid agencies.
However, Pakistan has the mandate to send back PoR cardholders to their home countries at any time.
The POC holders cannot obtain a Pakistani passport or cast a vote in the elections. They can enjoy all the other rights given to a Pakistani citizen. The POC holders can entre or exit Pakistan without a visa.
Earlier in the day, Supreme Court’s judge Justice Ayesha Malik said that Pakistan was bound by the United Nations conventions that safeguarded the rights of refugees.
She said this as a three-member bench comprising Justice Malik, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, and Justice Yahya Afridi took up a set of petitions challenging the caretaker government’s decision to expel illegal immigrants. The applications sought restraining orders against the decision.
More than 370,000 Afghans have fled Pakistan since Oct 1, after the caretaker government asked illegal immigrants to leave the country by November 1 or face deportation.
Pakistan is home to more than 4 million Afghan migrants and refugees, about 1.7 million of whom are undocumented.
Many arrived after the Taliban retook Afghanistan in 2021, joining a large number living there since the Soviet invasion of the neighbouring nation in 1979.
Pakistani police have searched door-to-door in refugee settlements for any who have not left voluntarily, starting from the southern port city of Karachi, where hundreds of thousands of Afghans live. Any remaining are being forced to leave.
Islamabad has not heeded calls from international bodies and refugee agencies to reconsider its deportation plans.
More to follow…