ISLAMABAD: The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) has been approached to seek a directive for government departments not to detain or forcefully deport Afghan asylum seekers when their applications are pending before authorities like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Advocate Umer Ijaz Gilani through an application also requested the NCHR to dec­lare that Afghan asylum seekers, especially Afghan human rights defenders (AHRD), are entitled to certain rights, including that of non-refoulement under the Constit­u­tion of Pakis­tan, Inter­national Customary Law and international covenants signed by Pakistan.

The petition also asked the NCHR to direct the UNHCR to expeditiously process and decide the applications filed by foreigners presently residing in Pakistan, especially those moved by AHRDs.

It requested the NCHR to order the federal government to secure all fundamental rights that accrue to asylum seekers in Pakistan, especially AHRDs, under Article 4 of the Constitution, read with Article 9 that deals with life and liberty, Article 10 (arrest and detention procedures), Article 10A (fair trial), Article 11 (slavery and forced labour), Article 12 (retrospective punishment), Article 13 (self-incrimination and double jeopardy), Article 14 (human dignity and privacy of home), Articles 21 and 22 (religious oppression), Article 24 (expropriation) and Article 25A (children’s education).

Petition says Afghanistan is no longer safe for human rights defenders after fall of Kabul

The commission, the petition said, should also ask the National Data and Registration Authority (Nadra) and UNHCR to streamline the process of birth certificate registration for all asylum seekers living in Pakistan.

The federal government should coordinate with all relevant federal and provincial law enforcement agencies to refrain from harassing and exploiting the asylum seekers living in Pakistan, it added.

The petition cited a statement of Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon who highlighted that 129 Afghan female asylum seekers were behind bars along with 178 children in the province.

The petition explained that after the fall of Kabul, thousands of AHRDs were left with no option but to flee their country, leaving their loved ones as well as properties behind. Many of them took refuge in Pakistan.

They are now currently residing in Pakistan in a state of exile, the petition explained, adding that AHRDs have been in Pakistan for more than a year.

However, their future remains uncertain as they have not been given any documents which would provide them legal recognition. The visas of most AHRDs have expired and renewals are still awaited.

The UNHCR, it stated, had delayed in conducting interviews of asylum seekers for more than a year as without the interview, the agency cannot determine the refugee

status of AHRDs, and they would resultantly be unable to seek protections and opportunities offered to refugees in many parts of the world.

The human rights situation in Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul has deteriorated, the petition said, adding that Afghanistan was no longer safe for human rights activists as their past engagements and activities were considered antithetical to the fundamentalist ideology of the new government.

Courtesy: Dawn