Pakistan bound to comply with UN conventions: SC

DEPORTATION OF AFGHAN REFUGEES

ISLAMABAD  -  The Supreme Court has said since Pakistan is a signatory to United Nations (UN) conventions safeguarding the rights of refugees, it is bound to comply with these agreements for rights protection of refugees.

Justice Ayesha A. Malik passed these remarks as a three-member bench of the apex court yesterday took up a petition seeking restraining orders against the caretaker government’s decision to deport illegal Afghan nationals.

The judge said that deportation was a complex issue requiring constitutional interpretation and suggested the constitution of a larger bench to further examine the issue. The court also issued notices to the federation, apex committee, and the secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the petition against the deportation of Afghan citizens. A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and comprising Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Ayesha A Malik conducted hearing of a petition requesting the court to restrain the federation from detaining, forcefully deporting or otherwise harassing Afghans who are either refugees or an asylum-seekers and possess POR, ACC and asylum seeker applications issued by the UNHCR. In this matter, the court also issued notice to Attorney General for Pakistan. The petition has been filed jointly by Farhatullah Babar, Senator Mushtaq Ahmed, Amina Masood Janjua, Mohsin Dawar, Mohammad Jibran Nasir, Syed Muaz Shah, Pastor Ghazala Parveen, Imaan Zainab Mazari, Ahmad Shabbar, Advocate Imran Shafiq, Luke Victor, Sijal Shafiq, and Rohail Kasi. More than 370,000 Afghans have fled Pakistan since October 1, after Pakistan decided to expel more than one million undocumented refugees, mostly Afghans. The court noted that Pakistan is a signatory to United Nations (UN) conventions safeguarding the rights of refugees and these agreements bind Pakistan to comply with the rules. Earlier, Umar Gilani, representing the petitioners contended that the ‘impugned directive’ by the “apex committee” of the caretaker cabinet reversed a 45-year-old Pakistani state policy of hospitality and leniency towards refugees, asylum-seekers, and other migrants from the Afghan borders. He argued against the interim government’s authority to evict illegal refugees, asserting a lack of constitutional mandate to do so. The caretaker government lacks the constitutional authority for conclusive decisions on policy matters, he added.