A petition has been filed before the Supreme Court seeking a restraining order against the forceful deportation of Afghan nationals from Pakistan.
Former senator Farhatullah Babar and other petitioners, represented by advocate Umar Gilani, urged the apex court’s registrar’s office on Monday to allot a case number and schedule a date for hearing.
The plea was moved four days ago but it is yet to be registered. The request submitted on Monday states that thousands of people are facing eviction and suffering on a daily basis.
The petitioners have prayed to the top court to “protect the fundamental rights of millions of people” residing in Pakistan under Article 4,” states the request.
Read Deportation pushing Pak-Afghan ties to the edge
The federal government has initiated a crackdown against “undocumented” Afghan nationals – essentially persons seeking refuge in the country and awaiting legal formalities. Since November 1, 2023, the state has begun a campaign to forcibly evict around 1.3 million such persons under the garb of addressing the issue of “illegal migrants” on whom it has placed the unfair burden of the country’s worsening economic and security concerns.
The petitioners’ counsel contends that the “impugned directive” being undertaken by the “apex committee” of the caretaker cabinet “effectively amounts to a reversal of a 45-year-old Pakistani state policy of hospitality and leniency towards refugees, asylum-seekers and other migrants from the Afghan borders”.
It further notes that “being a major policy decision, it [the move to evict and deport] exceeds the powers of the caretaker cabinet as provided under Section 230 of the Elections Act, 2017”.
“Besides, it is causing massive violations of fundamental rights and rulings of Superior Courts including Aamir Aman vs. Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2020 Sindh 533), Rahil Azizi versus The State (W.P. No. 1666/2023) and Hafiz Hamdullah Saboor versus Government of Pakistan (PLD 2021 Islamabad 305,” it adds.
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Advocate Gilani urged the registrar’s office to “take urgent notice of the matter and to take all steps necessary for upholding the laws and the Constitution, and providing inexpensive and expeditions justice”.
Around 1.3m are registered refugees and 880,000 more have legal status to remain in Pakistan, according to the latest United Nations figures.
Police and politicians have said a recent round-up targets only those without legal status and is in response to rising crime and poor regulation of immigration that is straining resources.
At least 700 Afghans have been arrested since early September in Karachi alone – 10 times more than in August – and hundreds more in the other cities, according to official police figures.
Afghans say the arrests have been indiscriminate.
They accuse police of extorting money and ignoring legal documents while pointing to rising anti-Afghan sentiment as prolonged economic hardship burdens Pakistani households and tensions rise between Islamabad and Kabul’s new Taliban government.