The Pak-China collaboration has already begun producing benefits and will no doubt bring development and growth to our country and its people. However, the fact that this collaboration is expanding on all fronts, merits the need to mechanize, monitor and regulate the expansion – a need that cannot be negated. One of the important aspects in this regard is the migration that would be taking place between the nationals of China and Pakistan in to each other’s state. This movement has already begun and will likely gain more momentum as the two states indulge more heavily in collaborative projects and activities. And this time around the movement will, more than likely, not be limited to the persons who intend to remain here on a short term basis, instead there will increasingly be a number of the these people who seek new opportunities and eventually plan to settle and establish permanent residencies.

Unfortunately, the current scenario regarding existence and application of law to regulate the movement, establishment and residencies of the two citizenries is underwhelming in its effectiveness and efficiency, to say the least. There are lapses in the upholding of a system to keep record of such movement, to manage the movement and the people who have moved, as well as their residencies.

There is a dire need to set up a mechanism to regulate, at a minimum, to better administer, such movements and communities that inevitably will be set as a result of such movement of persons. This might require amendments to be made in the Citizenship Act of 1951. New clauses need to be introduced, categorizing, addressing and catering for the establishment of the people who enter in to Pakistan for an indefinite period and more importantly, such clauses call for a strong mechanism for implementation of the law and an even stronger one assuring that requisite law is not exploited in any way.

If we were ever to learn from our mistakes, we would have long realized the immense need for such laws from our experience with the Afghani migrants – or ‘refugees’ – in Pakistan. Since long there had been no solid policy in place to administer the Afghan nationals residing and living in Pakistan. It took a while for Pakistan to realize that the refugees must be made of the system where they can be monitored and administered and for that, they must be given identity. For that purpose, the Government of Pakistan in collaboration with UNHCR – with extensive support from NADRA– issued Afghan nationals living/residing in Pakistan with CNIC. Prior to issuance of CNICs these Afghan refugees were issued a Proof of Residence – extended each time upon expiry. It must be considered that till date not all of these people have been issued such cards probably for the reason that they have not gotten themselves registered yet.

The concept of the two scenarios may be different – the Afghans are refugees whereas the Chinese will be entering through a proper channel and valid documentation – but the phenomenon under consideration here, the fact that they are or will be residing in Pakistan in large numbers, be it permanent or otherwise, remains the same. Eventually, the mass movement of people in to Pakistan will be a menace if not properly managed and administered.

The surge of movement effects and changes the people in the locality besides effecting the locality itself. New places give people new identities and new people give places new characteristics. As a result of the existing cultural and social barriers between the natives of Pakistan and China, the new migrants pose new challenges. It would not be wrong to presume that such a movement of persons can also exacerbate differences among people and places, thus seeding the risk of conflict and adversities. Such is the case with Afghan nationals, whose presence in Pakistan has led to increased sectarian violence; drug trafficking, terrorism and organized crime. In the absence of any regulatory framework to administer and manage the mobility it would be hard to mitigate such risks.

Where the two countries are hard on removing the barriers that hamper cultural linkages and people-to-people exchange, the countries must try to introduce and stimulate such policies and regulations that are efficient and effective enough to record and track citizenries residing in their respective lands.

The writer is a corporate consultant.