ANP backs citizenship for Afghans, Bengalis

Asfandyar Wali addresses a presser in Peshawar on Monday. — White Star
Asfandyar Wali addresses a presser in Peshawar on Monday. — White Star

PESHAWAR: Awami National Party central president Asfandyar Wali Khan has endorsed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s announcement for the grant of Pakistani citizenship to Bengalis and Afghans born in the country and criticised those opposing it.

“It is a normal practice all over the world that a child born in a country is given its citizenship. Pakistan should also grant citizenship to Afghans, who were born here, if it can give nationality to others. It is a humanitarian issue and not a political one,” he told a news conference at the Bacha Khan Markaz here on Monday.

Calling Imran Khan a ‘selected’ premier, Mr Asfandyar, whose party is part of the opposition, criticised ‘some elements’ opposed to Pakistani citizenship for Afghans and Bengalis.

He said the people, who crossed the eastern border into the country were given Pakistani citizenship and even jobs but those coming in from the western border were denied it though their fathers and grandfathers were used in Afghan war.

Asfandyar says Afghans born in country shouldn’t be victimised

The ANP leader said currently, the country had the third generation of Afghans, who had come to Pakistan as refugees.

He complained that like Afghan nationals, Pakistani Pakhtuns, who called themselves Afghans by race, were discriminated against in the country and were denied Computerised National Identity Cards in cities like Karachi and Lahore.

“I am a proud Afghan by race. This is my country. If a Rajput living here still calls himself Rajput, why the people get angry when I call myself Afghan,” he said.

Mr Asfandyar said the Afghans born in Pakistan shouldn’t be victimised or discriminated against.

He said Pakistan should improve relations with neighbours, while both Islamabad and Kabul should ease visa conditions for the people’s smooth movement and better trade.

The ANP leader said political issues among countries could be resolved by talks and not war.

He said his party wasn’t opposed to the construction of dams in the country but rejected the controversial Kalabagh dam project like three provincial assemblies did.

“If the government still wants to go ahead with this (Kalabagh dam) project, it would only suggest that only Punjab is Pakistan, where other provinces have no rights,” he said.

“I am convinced that the Kalabagh dam’s construction is not in favour of Pakhtuns, Baloch and Sindhis. If I am declared a traitor under Article 6 of the Constitution, I will continue furthering the mission of my father and grandfather for the rights of our people,” he said.

Mr Asfandyar expressed concerns about terrorist threats to the life of the party’s leaders and workers and said he was helpless.

“When the state institution, which is supposed to protect them (ANP activists), just warns them with little details of the approaching attackers instead of going after them, I can do nothing but pray for their life,” he said.

About the upcoming by-elections, the ANP leader said if the Pakistan Army was allowed to stay inside polling stations like the July 25 general election, then the losing candidates would rightly blame their defeat on them (army).

He asked the army’s top brass not to make their institution controversial and stay out of thje polling stations in the coming by-polls.

Mr Asfandyar said the party would contest the coming by-elections despite having a bad experience in the last general election.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2018

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