Editorial : Afghan nationals - Sunday 27th March 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/27/afghan-nationals.html

A NEWS report based on last Thursday’s proceedings in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly offers evidence of what could be called the country’s preferential ‘AFAM’ policy that lumps together two close allies. The report suggests the Afghans and the Americans exist outside the government’s definition of foreigners. Incredibly, only five US nationals are shown by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa home department ledger to be staying in the pro-vince right now. This is a ‘huge’ presence considering that official figures fail to record the presence of any Americans in the province in 2009-2010.
At the same time, the Afghans are also not considered foreign enough to make it to the list of aliens, even though some 350 of them receive their visas daily from the Pakistani embassy in Kabul alone.
The Afghans and their neighbours in the Pakistani areas speak the same language, are connected by familial ties and brought together by cultural and business interests. These linkages did make it easier for millions of Afghan refugees to assimilate in Pakistan. But here we are talking about people with a foreign passport and a Pakistani visa. Even in the case of Afghan refugees, while they were extended special treatment here, in recent years much emphasis has been put on their repatriation based on an assertion of their identity as Afghan nationals. Why would the authorities then not want to register bona fide Afghan visitors to Pakistan? Indeed, it may be easier to have records for them than for many others who travel to and fro without documents. The fact that even Pakistani nationals are routinely required to prove their origins to the picket-minders here should have made exemptions that much more difficult. This laxity is not new to Pakistan. However, with each new incident, it is more frustrating than it was in the past.

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