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Afghan Refugees can open bank accounts in Naya Pakistan


News Analysis |

In an interesting development, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that he had issued instructions for registered Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan to be allowed to open bank accounts on Monday. PM Khan has always been concerned about the refugees and the issues they have been facing in Pakistan. “From now onwards they can participate in the formal economy of the country,” the premier said, referring to registered Afghan refugees. “This should have been done a long time ago,” Khan concluded.

Due to Urban security and challenges, the authorities are facing in megacities, Afghan refugees remain under discussion in Pakistan.

It is important to note here that after a few days of assuming the office, PM Khan made a surprise announcement during his first visit to Karachi. He indicated that passports would be given to Afghan refugees; not only to children who were born and brought up in the country but also to their parents.

PM’s order to allow Afghan refugees to have bank accounts is the first gesture to the refuges that they are under the attention of the authorities. Not only that will help refugees, but generate economy for Pakistan too.

However, following a backlash, he later appeared to row back on the plans, saying he had raised the issue of refugee citizenship “just to initiate a debate” and that no decision had been made. The announcement was criticized by the opposition Pakistan People’s Party, with provincial minister Saeed Ghani claiming that Pakistan could not afford it. The party’s leader Saeed Ghani said he was “strongly opposed” to granting citizenship to people he described as “illegal immigrants”.

As a matter of fact, after Turkey, Pakistan has hosted the largest refugee population, according to the UN. Afghans began pouring into the country when their homeland was invaded in 1979 and by the end of 2001, following the US invasion, there were an estimated four million refugees living there. Although many have since returned, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) says there are more than 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan, with around 1 million of those being second or third generation.

Read more: Unwanted Afghan refugees pin hopes on Pakistan’s Imran Khan

Moreover, laws in Pakistan ensure that anyone who is born in Pakistan shall be given citizenship. Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari said in the NA that “whether you like it or not, it is the law that those born in Pakistan are Pakistani nationals,” she was referring to the Citizenship Act of 1951 which grants citizenship status to everyone who is born in Pakistan.

PM Khan is interested in mainstream Afghan refugees in order to make them productive for Pakistan’s economy. If they remain in Pakistan and own businesses it will help Pakistan re-building and strengthen its economy. Therefore, many analysts in Pakistan appreciate PM Khan for his long term decision making.

Read more: Another flood of refugees coming toward Pakistan in case of U.S…

PM’s order to allow Afghan refugees to have bank accounts is the first gesture to the refuges that they are under the attention of the authorities. Not only that will help refugees, but generate economy for Pakistan too.

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