ISLAMABAD: A group of top academics on Thursday filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the government’s campaign to deport Afghans and seeking orders to restrain law enforcement agencies from implementing the expulsion policy.
Islamabad last month announced it would expel over a million undocumented migrants, mostly Afghans, amid a row with Kabul over charges that it harbors anti-Pakistan militants. Since the announcement of the deportation drive on Oct. 3, tens of thousands of Afghans, many of whom have lived in Pakistan for decades, have had to leave the country, and authorities are rounding up many more in raids across the country.
Politicians and right activists earlier this month moved the Supreme Court against the government’s deportation order. The latest plea has been filed by six faculty members of the country’s top higher education institute, the Lahore University of Management Sciences, under Article 184(3) of the Constitution. The case is fixed for hearing on Dec. 1.
Article 184 (3) empowers the Supreme Court to hear cases from individuals who believe their fundamental rights have been violated and the issue is of public importance.
The plea names the federation, all four provinces, the Islamabad chief commissioner, the chief commissioner for Afghan refugees, the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), the director general of Immigration and Passports and the United National High Commissioner for Afghan refugees as respondents.
It stated that the petitioners, as concerned citizens, were compelled to file the plea in the interest of poor Afghans living in Pakistan, “whether refugees, asylum seekers, so-called illegal foreigners or Pakistani citizens of Afghan origin.”
“This petition is necessitated due to the serious human rights abuses and blatant violation of the Constitution and international law being committed by the federal government, the provincial government and other government authorities in the name of Pakistan.”
The plea said the caretaker government’s decision to expel Afghans “is not contained in any formal written letter” and does not “appear to have been passed under any legal authority such as the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any other statute.”
The petition highlighted that during the process of expulsion, Rs50,000 was taken from Afghan nationals at the borders while many were forced to abandon their homes, properties and businesses in Pakistan.
“Since the impugned decision was made and the expiry of the deadline was given, Afghans are being subjected to forced expulsion, harassment, extortion, physical abuse, racial discrimination, separation from family members, and inhumane treatment in violation of their fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution and international law,” the plea said.
In the 1980s, millions of Afghans fled to neighboring Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of their country. The numbers witnessed a spike after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021.
Even before the expulsion drive began, Afghans have long complained about constant harassment due to the lack of citizenship rights for those who have spent decades living and working in Pakistan.
Human rights activists have for years called for Afghans born in the country to be given nationality in accordance with Pakistani law, which grants citizenship to anyone born in the country, except for children of diplomats and enemy aliens.