NEWS: Pakistan

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Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network (jkanics@igc.apc.org)
Fri, 13 Nov 1998 12:55:41 -0800 (PST)


Government deliberating steps to deal with illegal immigrants
By Shamim-ur-Rehman
Dawn News Service (Pakistan), November 13, 1998

KARACHI, Nov 12: The federal government has decided to examine various
international reports and proposals of the
Citizens-Police-Liaison-Committee for the registration of about 2.5 million
illegal immigrants and deweaponization of the city, officials said.

Assistance of international agencies in this regard had also been sought,
they said.

The prime minister, after reviewing the law and order situation here on
Tuesday, had reportedly gone through the reports filed by the CPLC and had
given one week to authorities to come out with a concrete proposal
envisaging registration of illegal immigrants and their isolation from the
nationals.

According to estimates over 2.5 million illegal immigrants are living in
the country, 1.5 million of them were in Karachi alone.

To check illegal immigrants from infiltrating, sealing of the international
borders with Sindh and stepped up surveillance are also part of the plan.

These decisions were taken as pressure was mounting on the authorities to
deal with the problem of illegal immigrants, who were perceived to be
involved in crimes like arms smuggling, manufacture of explosive devices,
drug trafficking, robberies and carjackings.

According to a study carried out by the CPLC, on top of the list of these
illegal immigrants are Afghans, believed to be involved in arms smuggling
and supplies.

Most of the reports presented to the governments had called for confinement
of aliens to camps and issuance of work permits to them.

This was much talked about during Abdullah Shah's government but no
practical steps were taken in this regard.

A survey on the pattern of crime and illegal immigrants' involvement,
conducted by the CPLC, noted that Afghans were mostly involved in arms
smuggling and dealing, manufacturing of home-made explosives and drug
trafficking.

The study had also revealed that illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and
Burma were involved in thefts and flesh trade.

On the issue of dealing with the law and order problem, the CPLC had
identified four options which were still relevant and could be considered
by the new administrative set-up.

The first option suggested by the CPLC was to put illegal immigrants into
refugee camps, which would be very successful in case of Afghans as their
number is now relatively small. The report strongly recommends this option
because of Afghans' involvement in arms and drugs trade. However, the same
prescription was not considered feasible for Bangladeshis and Burmese by
the authors of the report as, they thought, it would create a diplomatic
problem between Pakistan and Bangladesh.

It was also not considered practicable as the repatriation of so many
illegal immigrants, would require tremendous resources, and there were
apprehensions that Bangladesh might revive the issue of "Biharis", or
stranded Pakistanis, there.

The second option suggested by the CPLC called for restarting the suspended
campaign of arresting and prosecuting illegal immigrants and their employers.

The third option suggested the naturalisation of illegal immigrants by
allowing them to become Pakistan citizens. It was, however, not considered
feasible as it would attract more immigrants to come to Pakistan.

Another option floated by the CPLC pertained to the registration of illegal
immigrants and issuance of residential and work permits to them.

Since the main brunt of the problems caused and generated by illegal
immigrants is borne by Karachi, it was suggested that a registration
authority to be headed by the governor be created.

The proposal suggested that a grace period of six months should be allowed
to all approved classes of aliens to register themselves with the
authority. The registrations would be done once the grace period had elapsed.

The report, however, made it clear that a registered alien would never have
the rights of a citizen. Once registration had been done the alien would be
entitled to live in Pakistan without any let or hindrance.

The permission to stay would be for a maximum period of seven years within
which time the alien would be required to make his or her own arrangement
to return to the native country.

The registration exercise would also generate revenue for the country. It
was estimated that the issuance of one million cards @ Rs500 each would
generate Rs500 million and after deducting the expenses of establishment
and appliances, estimated to be Rs 50 million, the net income would be
Rs450 million.

The annual renewal of estimated 700,000 work permits @ Rs 1,000 each would
generate Rs700 million. After deducting Rs50 million running expenditure
Rs650 million could still be saved, the CPLC report suggested.

After the expiry of seven years it would be a penal offence for any person,
firm, or company to employ any person unless he is in possession of a
Pakistan passport issued before 1975 or an NIC issued before 1975 and an
alien registration card with a valid work permit issued by the registration
authority.

The CPLC proposals could provide the basis for a future regulatory
authority, which had become imperative for managing the megacity's civic
problems also.

But political considerations and availability of cheap labour was
obstructing any move to segregate the illegal immigrants, despite the fact
the government had even apprehended RAW's infiltration.

The nationalist groups in Sindh who were opposed to this repatriation of
stranded Pakistanis were, however, not vocal in their opposition to the
presence of Bangladeshis and Burmese.

Sources, said the government would examine financial implication of the
plan and its structural module.

Together with illegal immigrants the issue of containing the terrorists
within the province was also on top priority. Interior Minister Chaudhri
Shujaat Hussain had pointed out at this in his briefing to the newsmen on
Tuesday. He said surveillance would be stepped up along provincial borders
to check such elements from slipping out to other provinces.

But isolating terrorists from the rest of the population still remained a
big question mark and could lead the government into a bigger problem,
sources said.


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