I was born in Pakistan but I am not a Pakistani
Machar Colony, Orangi Town, Bangla Bazaar, ever heard of these areas? I never did until last year, someone like me who has spent the last twenty years in the biggest metropolis of the country.
Probably the only metropolis in the world with more than 1.4 billion people( Census 2017), the number doesn’t frighten us enough, it probably will when one realizes that these 1.4 billion are on paper and there many more human souls out there who have never been counted since decades.
We all are aware of the fact that multiple ethnicities are residing in karachi as of 2018, majority of them are not acquainted with something that we devalue enough and often tend to hide it from others, none other than our Pakistani citizenship.
A few weeks ago, our newly elected Prime Minister enroute Naya Pakistan stopped by Karachi. Whenever someone of that status visits karachi, we do see an entourage around, as was the case with Mr. Imran Khan surrounded by one of the most powerful and popular faces of the country.
During his visit the prime minister elect was adamant of the fact that the incumbent government is willing to regularize or provide some sort of relief to Bengalis, Burmese, Iranians and multiple ethnicities living in Karachi in order to solve their citizenship crisis. When those alarm bells rang, that adamant fact turned into consideration or consultation whatever fits the parliamentary dictionary.
Why did those alarm bells rang?
Because We have an innumerable number of illegal, illegitimate residents living in Karachi without identity documents as per say.
We still have that same old elitist mindset regarding Pakistani citizenship that the said citizenship is an entitlement passed onto generations, the fact that someone born in Pakistan deserves that entitlement is an anomaly.
Oh wait, did I just refer to the same class who travel the world with pregnant wives just to get any passport except for a green one.
*The picture was obtained from the following article https://herald.dawn.com/news/1153771
That child is completely unaware of the fact that he is living in a country he doesn’t belong to, quite compatible with popular opinion, right?
We have our long lost muslim brothers or ex muslim brothers I should say who were forced to leave West Pakistan and migrate to modern day Bangladesh after 1971, those who couldn’t make it still live in areas like Machar Colony ( Fisherman’s Colony), fishing which was the only bread and butter these families had has been entrenched with various obstacles.
Due to the security situation maritime officials are now tasked with checking identity cards of fisherman along the coast and fortunately enough for our authorities, majority of the residents of Machar Colony dont have one.
The problem doesn’t end with Bengalis, we have had Afghans pouring in after the Soviet invasion, burmese fleeing away from atrocities of the Myanmar authorities, Iranians illegally entering Balochistan and making it to karachi.
Whether the incumbent government grants them Pakistani nationality or not is not the question for now, how on earth do we plan to regularize millions of such nationalities with no identity documents.
What would these children pursue when they grow up? Do they have any option left other than resorting to illegal means to provide for their families, No they dont.
We did accomodate refugees for a long period of time in fact Pakistan stands out in accommodating refugees, particularly Afghans since decades. The fact of the matter is where did NADRA, Interior Ministry, Census staff disperse when these refugees transcended into immigrants and eventually illegal citizens.
Even if we debate of the said issue, sounds like an addition to the kalabagh debate, what happens then?More mouths to feed, irregular and completely unchecked activities going around the city, a city which feeds Pakistan economically.
If the government has set afoot to address this issue which has been unchecked for decades, it should be better pursue it and at least come with a framework to do so. There are alternative means and one policy makers have to go through them in detail.
We do have embassies from all of these countries,right?
We know that majority of these people had illegal documents prepared from Pakistani authorities, one of the proposals I got while researching on the issue sounds a reasonable thing to do so.
Once we have records filtered for these ethnicities and we can track how many of them were actually born in Pakistan, the federal government can grant them nationality on a federal quota basis through an ordinance, so that provincial autonomy remains untouched
A temporary framework will allow those who want to go back home to be issued with temporary identity documents while others can be granted Pakistani citizenship after due process and due diligence by concerned authorities.
We know it isn’t that simple but atleast a start would allow us ti reach an eventual conclusion by the incumbent government.
As a nation of 220 million we still fail to adhere to the fact that none of us are more or less Pakistanis then each other.
*The picture in the thumbnail was obtained from the following article https://herald.dawn.com/news/1153771