The Interior Ministry is adamant on tightening regulations related to the deportation of Pakistani citizens abroad. After suspending readmission agreements with European Union countries for “blatant abuse” the ministry has instructed Pakistani diplomatic missions to demand “evidence of a potential crime” before accepting deportees.

These measures, coupled with a fine on airlines that transport deportees without verification, will definitely allow the government greater control over the issue; solving the problem of non-nationals being bundled up with the rest of the group. It also protects Pakistani citizens from being deported on weak or trumped up charges. In this regard, the pro-active steps taken by the ministry are commendable. However, this benefit needs to be weighed relative to the cost – which in this case is a protracted bureaucratic process and the possible hardship related to it.

By suspending the agreements, the ministry has removed all established operating procedures through which deportations were handled.

In its place new procedures and new requirements need to be implemented – all of which complicates procedures and impacts the already glacial pace of bureaucratic matters. Furthermore, the term “evidence of a potential crime” is also exceedingly vague. Do foreign authorities have to provide evidence of committed crimes or well founded suspicion of potential crimes? Is being a resident without documentation reasons enough for deportation or will other factors count as well. These requirements will also put an added burden on European authorities, which already struggling with, and buckling under, the migrant crisis caused by the Syrian war. The end result of all this will be thousands of Pakistanis stranded on foreign soil, either in refugee camps or temporary housing, pending the progress of their applications. Cleaning up deportation procedures is a necessary step, but the timing is horribly wrong.

The interior ministry must realize that suspending agreements and slapping on extra provisos is not the complete solution. It must also create an alternative system that streamlines the applications that the interior ministry is bound to receive now. New procedures must be explained in a user friendly and clear language and circulated so that expatriates, foreign missions, and European authorities all are aware of them. If issues with deportation are at such a large scale – 90,000 per year according to the government estimate – then the response must be the same. Funds can be allocated to a dedicated department dealing with deportations instead of asking the Foreign office to handle them. The exact policy is the Chaudary Nisar’s prerogative, as long as Pakistani expatriates are not left in limbo abroad.