ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said Pakistan “cannot continue to ignore the issue of non-citizens and needs a policy to grant citizenship rights to those who have been living here for decades, were born or married here.
“The issue of ignoring this vital segment of society is not doing the country any good,” the prime minister said while speaking on a point of order in the National Assembly.
"We were informed in a briefing at Karachi that most of those involved in street crimes belonged to this section of society. Since they were not granted citizenship they were not able to get admission in schools or get a job. What else would they do?"
"We are producing an underclass," the prime minister warned and said, “A policy needs to be devised in this regard.”
He agreed with Akhtar Mengal who pointed out that Pakistan had inked an agreement for the return of the Afghan refugees. But, he said that under the Pakistan law of 1951, children born in Pakistan get the citizenship status.
“It is the same in many other countries,” he added.
He said Pakistan has different laws for refugees and for those who came from Bangladesh, around 45 years back.
He said for generations, they have not been given the right and were being exploited and were paid half the salary. “Neither they can return, nor can they get citizenship,” he said.
The prime minister said he had taken up the issue since it was a human rights issue. "We are dealing with humans. We have to look after them."
The prime minister said a policy decision, after a thorough debate, in this regard was necessary and said "If we don't do it now, who will do it?"
He said under international conventions, refugees cannot be forced to return.
He said the issue in Pakistan was being looked after by the UNHCR. “However, the government needs to formulate a plan to cater to those who have been living here for a long time, have got married, and have children.”
He pointed out that the children of refugees born in the European Union too had a right to citizenship.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly approved a resolution for the construction of new dams in the country.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, while speaking on the floor of the house, said the country was facing a major crisis of water and energy shortages.
"The country will plunge into darkness if new water reservoirs are not made," he added.
"There is no confusion regarding the construction of dams. All four provinces signed an agreement in 1991 in this regard and we accept that as well as the agreement mentioned," he added.
Qureshi said for the first time, the chief justice and prime minister sought help from the nation adding the nation was extending support on this matter and there was no confusion regarding the construction of dams.
PPP leader lashes out at PM over plans to grant Pakistani citizenship to refugees
"Pakistan's future is linked to construction dams," he added.
However, Pakistan Peoples Party expressed reservations against the construction of Kalabagh dam and party MNA Nawab Muhammad Yousuf Talpur lodged a protest.
"We support the construction of Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams but not the Kalabagh dam," Talpur added.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khawaja Asif supported the construction of Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams, adding collecting funds for the construction of dams was a positive step.
"The matter of construction of dams should not be politicised," he added.
Asif continued that the water policy which was signed by all four provinces in April 2018 included the construction of Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams.
The agreement clarified every thing regarding the dam, he added.
“The water policy issue was under consideration since 2013 and was finally resolved in 2018 and the credit for that went to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz(PML-N),” he added.
Asif said, “Rs150 billion were spent on Bhasha Dam of which Rs122 billion was the cost of land and Rs23 billion were fixed for its annual expenditure."
"The dam will be completed in nine years. However, if you want to speed up its construction, then the yearly cost will go up from Rs23 billion to Rs40 billion but it will be completed in the next five to six years," he said.