‘Pakistan is my country’: Court citizenship ruling gives hopes to millions of Afghan refugees

Children of Afghan refugees play in Afghan Basti area on the outskirts of Lahore on June 19, 2021 on the eve of World Refugee Day. (AFP/FILE)
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Updated 12 November 2022

‘Pakistan is my country’: Court citizenship ruling gives hopes to millions of Afghan refugees

  • Islamabad High Court said last month a person born in Pakistan had citizenship rights
  • Experts back ruling, DG Immigration says government to appeal IHC verdict in top court

KARACHI: Fazal Haq was ecstatic to hear his lawyer’s voice on the other side of the phone last month, telling him that the court had ruled favorably in a case he had filed to get Pakistani citizenship. 

On October 20, Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah said a person born in Pakistan only required a birth certificate to be called a Pakistani and citizenship was his or her right, bringing into the spotlight the plight of millions of Afghan refugees living in the South Asian nation and raising hopes that they could finally become citizens. 

Haq, 24, who was born and raised in Pakistan and has never even visited Afghanistan, is among millions of Afghans whose families were uprooted from their home country due to war and insurrection. The refugees have long complained about constant harassment due to the lack of citizenship rights even for those who have spent decades living and working in Pakistan. 

After knocking on the doors of the relevant government ministries and departments for years, Haq said he finally took his citizenship plea to the Islamabad High Court as a last option. 

“It was the most exciting day of my life,” Haq told Arab News over the phone from the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, speaking about Justice Minallah’s ruling. 

“For a moment, I couldn’t believe it. But then I realized that I had achieved a huge milestone.” 

The IHC chief justice’s words have given hope to at least 2.15 million Afghan refugees, including 1.3 million registered and 0.85 million unregistered Afghans, who live in Pakistan, according to the United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR. After the Taliban takeover of the war-battered country in August 2021, at least 250,000 additional Afghans took shelter in neighboring Pakistan. 

But even after the court ruling, Haq said he was still waiting for his citizenship application to be processed by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). 

At the last hearing, Justice Minallah said Pakistani law allowed citizenship to every child born in the country, ordering the interior ministry to complete the legal process in the case by Oct. 28, and submit a report.

NADRA’s counsel had assured the court at the time that the application filed by Haq was being processed. 

A follow-up hearing was not held. 

Yawar Hussain, director general of Immigration and Passport (IMPASS) at the ministry of interior, told Arab News the government would file an appeal against the IHC decision with the Supreme Court. 

A NADRA spokesperson said IMPASS was the competent authority to grant citizenship, whereas NADRA merely registered and issued Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs) to verified citizens. 

The NADRA spokesperson said the authority was required to follow the law, which necessitated that all citizens had to be registered with NADRA. 

“Once a citizen has got himself registered and has attained the age of 18 years, then pursuant to Section 10 of the Ordinance, the citizen shall be entitled to a National Identity Card,” he explained. 

He said NADRA had not received any directions from the interior ministry in Haq’s case, but the chairman of NADRA had taken the initiative to approach the ministry for guidance on the subject. 

Haq’s lawyer, Umer Ijaz Gilani, said he would file a contempt of court petition if the interior ministry and NADRA failed to comply with the IHC judgment. 

“This is a landmark decision and will help those who were born here but denied citizenship rights,” Gilani said. 

“In the absence of that right, people are deprived of education, basic facilities and thus a reasonable life.” 

According to the Pakistani legal system, anyone born in Pakistan is eligible to be a citizen, with the exception of the children of foreign diplomats or enemy aliens. 

Many experts say the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951 is unambiguous while dealing with the subject and does not exclude refugee children. 

Syed Nadeem Farhat, an Islamabad-based researcher and expert on citizenship law, said other than children of international diplomats and enemy aliens, Pakistani legal provisions recognized that children of foreign parents could become citizens. 

“Otherwise, these exceptions would have been unnecessary,” he added. 

In 2018, the IHC granted citizenship to Saeed Abdi Mahmud, a man born to Somali parents in Pakistan, Farhat added. 

While both the earlier IHC and Peshawar High Court (PHC) judgments agreed that a refugee could not be considered jus soli (birthright citizen), Farhat said last month’s judgment by the IHC offered a clear and more prudent interpretation of the citizenship law. 

To take the matter forward, he called on the Supreme Court or parliament to give “detailed consideration” to the issue as millions of refugees and immigrants had lived in the country for decades and were raising their second or third generations here without access to fundamental rights. 

Meanwhile, Haq said he hoped his effort to get citizenship would not be in vain for him and for other Afghans living in Pakistan. 

“Pakistan is my country,” he said. “I was born and raised here and will live in this country till my last breath. I deserve to be called a proud Pakistani.” 

Gulf Oil forges ‘breakthrough’ local partnership to enter Pakistan’s oil market

Updated 7 sec ago

Gulf Oil forges ‘breakthrough’ local partnership to enter Pakistan’s oil market

  • The partnership with OTO Pakistan will provide the global lubricants giant access to some eight million vehicles
  • The deal is also expected to attract other global petrochemical conglomerates to tap into the local market

KARACHI: A global lubricants giant, Gulf Oil, has entered the local market through a partnership agreement with OTO Pakistan, which the latter described as a “breakthrough development” for the country’s oil market in a Saturday statement.
Gulf Oil was established in the United States in 1901 and supplies lubricants to 1,400 ports around the world.
Tariq Mehmood, the CEO of OTO Pakistan, signed the deal with Mike Jones, his counterpart at Gulf Oil in the United Kingdom, hoping it would attract the interest of global petrochemical companies into the Pakistani oil market as a safe trade, investment and joint ventures destination.
“Tariq Mehmood explained that Pakistan is a huge market for lubricants and retail fuels, with a population of 245 million and at least 8 million vehicles,” the statement said.
Mehmood noted Gulf Oil was a huge company with presence in 100 countries across the globe, adding its decision to enter into business with Pakistan would set an example for other global petrochemical conglomerates to tap into the local market.
He maintained the availability of Gulf Oil products would not only raise the standards of Pakistani lubricants market but also promote healthy competition among existing and potential players in the business.
The CEO of OTO Pakistan said his country had the potential to become the region’s transshipment due to the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, hoping the demand for lubricants would significantly increase within a span of few years.

Opposition parties in Sindh announce ‘black day’ following clashes during provincial lawmakers’ oath ceremony

Updated 24 February 2024

Opposition parties in Sindh announce ‘black day’ following clashes during provincial lawmakers’ oath ceremony

  • Political workers of different parties staged hours-long blockade of a central thoroughfare despite tear gas shelling
  • Jamaat-e-Islami, Grand Democratic Alliance and Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam raised rigging allegations after Feb. 8 polls

KARACHI: Several Pakistani parties on Saturday announced they would observe February 27 as “black day” in response to Sindh police firing tear gas at political workers protesting suspected rigging in the general elections earlier this month, as the newly elected lawmakers joined the inaugural session of the provincial legislature.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) bagged the highest 84 seats in the southern Sindh province, followed by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) which secured 28 seats, while 14 seats went to independents. The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) religious party and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) won two seats each.
Supporters of the JI, GDA, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), and other nationalist parties gathered near the provincial assembly in Karachi’s South zone to protest the alleged manipulation of the Feb. 8 election, which was marred by a mobile network outage and delays in the release of constituency results.
Hundreds of police personnel were deployed to prevent opposition supporters from advancing toward the Sindh Assembly building. The GDA and JUI-F were en route to the Karachi Press Club when clashes broke out between their workers and the police, resulting in stone-pelting and tear gas shelling.
“I strongly condemn the police shelling over the JUI-F workers,” Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman, the JI chief, said at a joint protest with the GDA. “We will observe February 27 as black day against election rigging and police torture on political workers.”
Rashid Soomro, a JUI-F leader, also confirmed development.
“Our peaceful workers were beaten and subjected to shelling as we attempted to reach the press club,” he said.
Political workers belonging to the protesting parties also blocked a main thoroughfare, Shahrah-e-Faisal, for several hours during the day.
Earlier, the outgoing speaker of the Sindh Assembly, Agha Siraj Durrani, administered oath to the newly elected lawmakers amid heavy security around the building.
“I do solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan, that as a member of the provincial assembly of Sindh, I will perform my functions honestly, to the best of my ability, faithfully, in accordance with the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the law and the rules of the assembly, and always in the interest of sovereignty, integrity and solidarity, well-being and prosperity of Pakistan,” Durrani said as he read out the oath to the lawmakers.
“May Allah Almighty help me and guide me.”
In view of the protest calls, the Sindh caretaker government on Friday imposed a ban under Section 144 on public assembly, gatherings, protests, processions, and demonstrations in Karachi’s South zone, where the provincial legislature is located, for a period of 30 days, according to the provincial home department.
Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) empowers the administration to issue orders in public interest and place a ban on any activity for a specific period of time.
The oath-taking ceremony came a day after the PPP nominated Murad Ali Shah, former Sindh chief minister, for the top provincial office once again, Syed Owais Shah for the role of speaker, and Anthony Naveed for the post of deputy speaker of the Sindh provincial assembly.
“We will not only compete with the governments of other provinces but also with the Center in performance,” Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, a former foreign minister and the PPP chairman, said at a meeting of newly elected party lawmakers in Karachi.
The PPP chairman announced that his party would forge a working relationship with all opposition parties in Sindh and address their legitimate grievances, according to a PPP statement. He urged the newly elected lawmakers to play their role in resolving the people’s problems in their respective constituencies.
“Be my eyes and ears,” Bhutto-Zardari was quoted as saying. “You play the role of a bridge between the people of your constituency and me; you are my ambassador to the people.”

Ex-PM Khan’s party presents ‘consolidated rigging evidence’ through website, questions election integrity

Updated 24 February 2024

Ex-PM Khan’s party presents ‘consolidated rigging evidence’ through website, questions election integrity

  • PTI claims it won 179 national seats on the basis of evidence available on the online portal, though ECP only notified 92
  • It mentions huge discrepancies between Forms 45 and 47 results, saying 87 of its national seats continue to remain disputed

ISLAMABAD: Former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has created an online portal to consolidate “rigging evidence” from the February 8 polls by compiling election documents from polling stations across the country to highlight discrepancies between the number of votes polled and the final results announced.
Pakistan’s general elections this month were marred by a nationwide outage of cellphone networks, delays in vote counting and result announcements.
The situation led to widespread perceptions of election manipulation, prompting Khan’s PTI and other parties to protest against the alleged rigging, which they claim favored their opponents.
However, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has denied these allegations.
“It swiftly became public knowledge that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was making significant gains in the election,” Khan’s party wrote on the portal, referring to the unofficial results from various polling stations which started pouring in shortly after the voting concluded.
“However, concerns arose when the security apparatus, entrusted with safeguarding the electoral process, began exerting undue influence over the ROs [returning officers] and their premises,” it added. “Candidates were abruptly removed from RO offices, signaling the beginning of coercive measures to dictate election outcomes.”
The PTI said this was done before the preparation of the Form 47 document that details the result of the whole constituency, naming all the candidates while specifying their parties and mentioning the total number of votes cast in their favor.
The Form 47 is compiled with the help of another document, Form 45, which is prepared by presiding officers of polling stations in the same format.
The final result of a constituency is compiled by using the information in Forms 45 arriving from hundreds of polling stations.
The PTI said the “interference” by the security apparatus forced many ROs to issue Form 47 documents “that bore no resemblance to the original Form 45 submissions from the field.”
“In response to these troubling developments, we have compiled the submitted forms from various candidates for public and media scrutiny,” it added. “A comparative analysis reveals significant disparities between the vote counts recorded on ‘Form 45’ and the figures eventually endorsed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Discrepancies range from a few thousand to over seventy thousand votes in many instances, underscoring the urgent need for transparency and accountability in the electoral process.”
The party said there were a few forms still missing which it could not get hold of.
Additionally, it specified that it had mentioned only those constituencies where 90 percent or more of these forms were available.
The PTI claimed it had won 179 national seats on the basis of the evidence the portal contained.
However, the ECP only notified the triumph of its candidates from 92 constituencies. The party also noted that 87 of its seats remained disputed.

Karachi Kings opt to bowl, reigniting famed rivalry with Lahore Qalandars in PSL clash

Updated 24 February 2024

Karachi Kings opt to bowl, reigniting famed rivalry with Lahore Qalandars in PSL clash

  • Both sides have had a poor outing so far this season and need to step up their game
  • The match, known as ‘El Classico’ of Pakistan Super League began at 7pm Pakistan time

ISLAMABAD: The storied rivalry between Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars was reignited in the 9th edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) at Qaddafi Stadium, Lahore, after the Kings won the toss and chose to bowl first, priming the stage for an electrifying showdown in what’s hailed as the “El Classico” of the Twenty20 league.
Both sides have had a poor outing so far this season and need to step up their game, though Karachi will be coming in on the back of their victory against Peshawar on Wednesday.
The match began at 7pm Pakistan time.
“Ready for our 3rd showdown as #KingsSquad gears up to clash against Lahore Qalandars,” Karachi Kings wrote on X before the contest began.
Karachi boast a strong bowling line-up, with Mir Hamza and Hassan Ali taking three wickets each.
Lahore, on the other hand, have had a three-match losing streak and are yet to get a victory in the current season.
Their bowling unit has also not been able to perform in crucial moments for the side, with Shaheen Afridi and Fakhar Zaman managing to two wickets each so far.

US spaceship lying sideways after dramatic Moon touchdown

Updated 24 February 2024

US spaceship lying sideways after dramatic Moon touchdown

  • The Odysseus spacecraft landed near the lunar south pole Thursday at 6:23 p.m. Eastern Time
  • The firm behind landing initially posted on social media that its hexagonal spaceship was upright

WASHINGTON: The first American spaceship to the Moon since the Apollo era is probably lying sideways following its dramatic landing, the company that built it said Friday, even as ground controllers work to download data and surface photos from the uncrewed robot.

The Odysseus spacecraft landed near the lunar south pole Thursday at 6:23 p.m. Eastern Time (2323 GMT), after a nail-biting final descent when ground teams had to switch to a backup guidance system and took several minutes to establish radio contact after the lander came to rest.

Intuitive Machines, the company behind this first-ever lunar landing by a private company, initially posted on social media that its hexagonal spaceship was upright, but CEO Steve Altemus told reporters on Friday that statement was based on misinterpreted data.

Instead, it appears that it caught a foot on the surface and tipped over, coming to rest horizontally with its top perched on a small rock — taking some shine off an accomplishment widely hailed as a historic achievement.

A NASA probe called the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter should be able to photograph Odysseus over the weekend, helping pinpoint its exact location.

Altemus said that while solar arrays were on the top-facing side, the team’s ability to download data from the science experiments on board was being hampered because of antennas facing downward that “are unusable for transmission back to Earth — and so that really is a limiter in our ability to communicate and get the right data down so we get everything we need for the mission.”

Because of complications associated with the landing, a decision was taken not to shoot out an external camera to capture the descent as it happened, according to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which built the “EagleCam” device.

But the team will still attempt to deploy it from the ground to try to obtain an outside image of Odysseus.

Odysseus is still considered the first success for a new fleet of NASA-funded lunar landers designed to carry out science experiments that will pave the way for the return of American astronauts to the Moon later this decade, under the Artemis program.

A moonshot by another American company last month ended in failure, raising the stakes to demonstrate that private industry has what it takes to repeat a feat last achieved by US space agency NASA during its manned Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Underlining the technical challenges, Intuitive Machines’ own navigation technology failed and ground engineers were forced to jury-rig a solution, hastily writing a software patch to switch to an experimental NASA laser guidance system that was intended to run only as a technology demonstration.

Altemus later revealed Odysseus’ own laser system failed to turn on because someone had forgotten to flip a safety switch before takeoff, which he described as “an oversight on our part.”

Confirmation of landing was supposed to come seconds after the milestone, but instead around 15 minutes passed before a faint signal was detected, enough to declare the spaceship was in one piece and had met its goal.

NASA paid Intuitive Machines $118 million to ship six experiments under an initiative which delegates cargo services to the private sector in a bid to achieve savings and stimulate a wider lunar economy.

Odysseus also carries cargo for private customers, including a reflective heat wrapping developed by Columbia Sportswear and used to protect the spaceship’s cryogenic propulsion tank.

The United States, along with international partners, want to develop long-term habitats on the south pole, harvesting ice there for drinking water — and for rocket fuel for eventual onward voyages to Mars.

The first crewed landing under NASA’s Artemis program is set to take place no sooner than 2026. China meanwhile plans to put its first crew on the Moon in 2030, opening a new era of space competition.

The mission was the fourth attempt at soft lunar touchdown by the private sector. Intuitive Machines joins the national space agencies of the Soviet Union, United States, China, India and Japan in an exclusive club of landing on the Moon.