Pakistan and France found themselves on the verge of a diplomatic spat, after France refused to accept someone they believe is Pakistani and deported him till his credentials were verified and other legal documentary requirements completed. The Interior Minster Chaudhry Nisar took a strong stance, refusing to accept the deportee, calling France out on a potentially illegal deportation. France wanted to deport Muhammad Mansha to Pakistan for criminal activity, vaguely defined as “severe moral crimes”. France’s interior department this week summoned the Pakistani envoy and asked him to prepare Mansha’s travel documents within hours. Failure to do so, French officials warned, could affect diplomatic ties between the two countries.

The sheer volume of deportees over the years carries an obvious difficulty running alongside — that of credibility and trust. Over a quarter of a million Pakistanis have been deported from 125 countries since 2013. The evils of terrorism, racism and Islamophobia has made the lives of Pakistani’s living abroad difficult. Associated problems have been travel restrictions, visa rejections with no logical reasoning and harassment by officials while travelling. Its almost as if the blame for everything that happened since 9/11 is on the shoulders of the Muslim man in the foreign land. In this context, countries like Pakistan must make sure that deported immigrants are proven to be illegal residents, and the western states follow legal procedures rather than deport people based on something that may not stand up in court.

This is not the first attempt by a western country at repatriation, but it must be proven that the individual in question is a Pakistani, and that they have done something illegal. Once this is clear, Pakistan is legally obligated to accept the deportee under Article 4 of the Constitution, to accord protection of the law to a Pakistani citizen “wherever he may be”. However, given the crisis of the ‘irregular migration’ routes taking economic migrants all over the world, perhaps it is time that the government highlights a repatriation policy and engages in talks with some of the European governments. Europe is undergoing a significant demographic change, and their policies have to be revised and recommunicated.

In the case of Pakistan, we have to be better at diplomacy. A hard stance against France will not go down well for our image or our relations with Europe, especially since we want membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Our ambassadors and envoys are placed in most countries, one wonders what they do to make sure that Pakistan’s are held in good standing in the perception of their hosts. Everything from immigration to foreign policy falls to the mercies of Chaurdhy Nisar. Where are our diplomats in this international storm of immigration and terrorism?