Addressing the refugee problem | Pakistan Today

Addressing the refugee problem

PM Khan should not be hasty in such matters

In a surprising announcement a few days back PM Khan vowed to provide citizenship to Afghans, Bengalis, Burmese etc living in the country for years without the status of being formal Pakistani citizens. The US inspired jihad in Afghanistan followed by the Afghan civil war and the US invasion of the country in 2001 had by 2014 forced around 5 million Afghanis to find refuge in Pakistan while a quarter of a million Bengalis arrived in Pakistan after the 1971 separation of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Although details at the moment are thin those living here for more than four decades and their children are likely to be in the millions. On the face of it the idea of providing Pakistani citizenship to an ignored and marginalized community that comprises the refugees looks attractive. But its devastating effects on Pakistani society must not be ignored. The country is already in short supply of utilities and jobs to its people. Can it afford the burden of the refugees also?

There are important national concerns that the PTI must not ignore before moving forward with their plan. Giving legal status to the refugees would significantly alter the ethnic composition of Baluchistan and Sindh. The demographic imbalance in the dangerously divided Baluchistan will be particularly further exacerbated. BNP chief Akhtar Mengal has already termed the decision as ‘disappointing’ while the PPP has also expressed its reservations. All new citizens will have voting rights resulting in new voting groups to emerge in cities like Karachi and Peshawar and in Baluchistan province bringing an immediate change in the voting dynamics. Meanwhile businessmen and traders in KP have also voiced their concerns claiming that Afghan nationals generally avoid paying taxes thus making it difficult for local traders to do business

It is imperative that the PTI government takes all stakeholders on board; consult with opposition parties and then take a final decision. Any haste in the matter could encourage those with parochial tendencies in Sindh and provide the small secessionist element in Baluchistan with a cause célèbre thus isolating Baloch mainstream politicians.