Pakistan obligated by UN conventions safeguarding refugee rights, observes SC's Justice Ayesha

Pakistan obligated by UN conventions safeguarding refugee rights, observes SC's Justice Ayesha


Three-judge bench takes up a plea seeking restraining orders against deportation of illegal Afghans

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(Web Desk) – As a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Friday took up a petition seeking restraining orders against the caretaker government's decision to deport illegal Afghan nationals, Justice Ayesha A Malik observed that Pakistan is obligated by United Nations conventions safeguarding refugee rights.

Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Yahya Afridi are the other two judges on the bench.

Back in November, the government launched a nationwide drive to expel illegal foreign nationals, predominantly Afghans. Despite criticism from Afghanistan and other quarters, the caretakers stood firm, asserting that the action targeted no specific ethnic group.

According to estimates, out of over four million Afghans in Pakistan, around 1.7 million are undocumented.

Thousands have already returned home through the Torkham and Chaman border crossings.

Last month, politicians and activists approached the apex court, challenging the mass deportation as illegal, unconstitutional, and a violation of fundamental rights.

The registrar's office initially rejected the petition for not specifying the questions of public importance related to fundamental rights.

During today's proceedings, the court stated that the deportation of illegal Afghan citizens involved "constitutional interpretation" and instructed Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan to assist with the matter.

Farhatullah Babar, one of the petitioners, argued that the interim government lacked the authority to deport illegal Afghan citizens, stating that those being expelled had applied for political asylum. He contended that the government's treatment of Afghan citizens was inhumane and beyond its constitutional authority.

Justice Afridi sought clarification on the fundamental rights being violated, to which the petitioner referred to Articles 4, 9, 10, and 25 of the Constitution.

Justice Masood raised the question of whether those who had been living in the country for the past 40 years should be allowed to stay.

The court subsequently issued notices to the federal government, Foreign Ministry, apex committee responsible for the decision, and the attorney general for Pakistan.

The hearing was adjourned until the next week.

The joint petition, moved on behalf of various individuals, urged the court to restrain the federal government from detaining, deporting or harassing individuals with proof of residence, Afghan Citizen Card, UNHCR-issued asylum-seeker applications, or pre-screening slips from partner organisations.

It also called for the registration and expedited processing of asylum applications by the UNHCR and its partners.