A group of 13 citizens, including political leaders, has appealed the Supreme Court registrar’s rejection of an earlier petition challenging the caretaker government’s move to deport illegally residing foreigners from Pakistan, particularly Afghans, stressing the issues raised therein are critical to securing fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.
Last week, the Registrar’s Office returned the constitutional petition seeking a restraining order on forceful deportation or harassment of anyone born in Pakistan and having a claim to birthright citizenship in accordance with Section 4 of the Citizenship Act, 1951 and a judgment of the Islamabad High Court. In its rejection, the registrar’s office said the petition had not highlighted any matters of public importance with reference to the enforcement of any fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
It further noted that the petitioners’ invoking of the extraordinary jurisdiction of the top court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution was for redress of an individual grievance, which was not permissible, adding “ingredients” required for this had not been satisfied. It also noted that the petitioners had not approached any other appropriate forum to address their concerns, and had failed to justify why they had not done so. It also pointed out that the caretaker prime minister and interim chief ministers of all provinces were impleaded as respondents, which was not permissible under Article 248 of the Constitution.
“The registrar of the Supreme Court has returned our petition filed against the decision of the Apex Committee to deport Afghan refugees stating that the petition does not raise any issue of fundamental rights,” wrote one of the petitioners, human rights activist Jibran Nasir, in a posting on X, formerly Twitter. “It is unfortunate that an institution like Supreme Court is running with its registrar copy-pasting objections like a performa without any application of mind. It further raises the question that how is the registrar empowered to adjudicate on maintainability of a petition and return same,” he added.
Nasir went on to confirm that the petitioners had filed an appeal against the registrar’s decision and hoped the judiciary would take up the matter “at the earliest.”
In the appeal, counsel Umer Gilani noted that over 200,000 Afghan migrants had already been displaced; and more than a million were facing deportation, including asylum-seekers. Warning that returning to Afghanistan, especially ahead of winter, risked threats to their lives, it stressed that this was a matter of public importance.
“The issues raised in the petition are critical for securing the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution,” read the appeal. “The promises contained in the Constitution must never be allowed to become mere verbiage, the harbingers of false hope. Every constitutional promise must be encashed—here and now. In this regard, as per Article 184(3) and relevant case law, the Supreme Court bears a heavy responsibility toward the marginalized and voiceless segments of society who are ordinarily unable to access the courts of law to enforce their rights,” it added.
The appeal has urged the Supreme Court to set aside the registrar’s objections, fix the original petition before a suitable bench, and grant any warranted relief.
The 13 petitioners are: Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed; rights activist Amina Masood Janjua; National Democratic Movement Chairman Mohsin Dawar; lawyer Jibran Nasir; Rohail Kasi; Syed Muaz Shah; Pastor Ghazala Parveen; lawyer Imaan Mazari; Ahmad Shabbar; advocate Imran Shafiq; Luke Victor; and Sijal Shafiq.
The interim government on Oct. 3 announced it was granting all undocumented migrants in Pakistan until Oct. 31 to either leave voluntarily or risk forcible expulsion. While authorities insist the move is not targeting any specific ethnicity or nationality, it has admitted that it would disproportionately impact Afghans, as they comprise the larger number of illegally residing foreigners in Pakistan.
According to authorities, over 200,000 Afghans have left the country voluntarily over the past month. However, critics have noted that the overzealous drive has also resulted in some Pakistanis nationals being deported, adding Islamabad is violating international agreements in forcibly evicting refugees and asylum-seekers, who face threats to their lives upon their return.