PHC orders early return of Afghan refugees
PESHAWAR, June 20: The Peshawar High Court on Wednesday ordered the federal and provincial governments to make arrangements for early repatriation of Afghan nationals, observing that the country had already been passing through crises of different kinds and could no longer afford to provide shelter to such a large number of refugees.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth directed the secretary state and frontier region and the head of the Commissionerate of Afghan Refugees (CAR) to provide details of the money received by Pakistan from the UNHCR and other aid agencies and its expenditure.
It also asked when a proper government was functioning in Afghanistan and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Nato had been taking care of security situation there, then why the international organisations and government here had not been repatriating Afghan refugees.
The bench was hearing a writ petition filed by an employee of the CAR, Jawed Shah, about denial of promotion by the management when it took notice of the issue of Afghan refugees.
It put the CAR and the Safron secretary on notice in the case and ordered the fixing of the hearing in the last week of July.
Abdul Lateef Afridi, lawyer for the petitioner, shared the concern of the bench regarding refugees and said around 1.7 million refugees in Pakistan were registered but a large number of refugees were unregistered. He said Pakistan lacked resources to further bear the burden of Afghan refugees.
During the hearing, the chief justice observed that earlier, the court had issued clear directives to the government to repatriate Afghan refugees but no step was taken by it for the purpose. He asked if around 70 per cent of Afghan refugees had been repatriated, then why the rest couldn’t return home.
Justice Dost Mohammad said the country had been facing serious crises of different nature, including food and energy shortage and lawlessness, and therefore, there was no justification for further stay of refugees in the country.
The chief justice said even under the UN Charter, it was not justified to provide shelter to refugees in a country facing crises.
Meanwhile, the same bench ordered the Safron and finance secretaries to arrange funds for the Fata Secretariat within 20 days to pay compensation to families of 42 slain Bajaur Levies personnel.
It said the secretaries would have to show up and explain position on the next hearing on July 24 in case of non-compliance of the orders.
The orders were issued by the bench during the hearing into a writ petition filed by Sher Mohammad Khan and others, legal heirs of the slain Bajaur Levies personnel.
Akbar Ali Shah, lawyer for petitioners, said members of his clients’ families were employed in Bajaur Levies and died in militant attacks over the last few years in Bajaur Agency.
He said the agency’s administration had provided very nominal compensation to some of the said families ignoring the rest despite repeated requests.
The bench also took exception to the political agent’s failure to turn up and issued directions to him to be in attendance on the next hearing.