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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Supreme Court Navigates Legal Turbulence Over Afghan Deportations

SC emphasized Pakistan's commitment to UN conventions while petitioners argued against the caretaker government's authority and raised concerns over human rights violations.

On Friday, the Supreme Court, led by Justice Ayesha A. Malik, emphasized Pakistan’s commitment to United Nations conventions safeguarding refugee rights. The proceedings revolved around a petition challenging the caretaker government’s decision to deport illegal Afghan nationals, marking a crucial legal battle with far-reaching implications.

The three-member bench, also comprising Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Yahya Afridi, delved into the complex terrain of constitutional interpretation. Justice Malik, acknowledging the intricacy of the deportation issue, suggested the formation of a larger bench for a more thorough examination.

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The petition, jointly moved by various entities including former PPP senator Farhatullah Babar, Senator Mushtaq Ahmed, and rights activists, sought to restrain the federal government from detaining, deporting, or harassing individuals with valid residence proofs or asylum applications.

Human Rights Concerns

Representing the petitioners, Umar Gillani contested the caretaker government’s authority to evict illegal refugees, asserting a lack of constitutional mandate for such actions. Gillani further raised grave concerns over reported human rights violations and inhumane treatment of Afghan citizens during the eviction process.

The counsel argued that the caretaker government lacked the constitutional authority for conclusive decisions on policy matters, adding another layer of complexity to the legal debate. Justice Yahya Afridi probed the fundamental human rights violations alleged by the petitioners, with Gillani pointing to violations of Articles 4, 9, 10A, and 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

The court, responding to these concerns, issued notices to key entities, including the federal government, the foreign ministry, the Attorney General for Pakistan, and the apex committee responsible for the controversial decision. As the legal battle unfolds, the fate of Afghan refugees hangs in the balance, and the court adjourned the hearing until the next week.

During an earlier hearing, the petitioners’ counsel highlighted the significant shift in the caretaker cabinet’s policy, challenging a longstanding tradition of hospitality and leniency towards refugees. The “impugned directive” by the “apex committee” effectively reversed a 45-year-old Pakistani state policy, setting the stage for a legal clash between constitutional principles, humanitarian concerns, and the government’s authority.