Being a refugee is not a choice. Both natural catastrophes and terrible government choices force hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes and find peace in other places. In recent times, the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar has brutally exposed the international morality on many levels. On the one hand, the global powers remained silent to the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims by Myanmar’s Buddhists. On the other hand, the countries where Rohngyas tried to seek refuge attempted to close their borders on them. Pakistan has been welcoming to asylum seekers yet there is still a myriad of institutional problems that haunt refugees.

Though the law of the land allows citizenship rights to those who are born in Pakistan, however, the practice is otherwise. Still, contrary to practices of other countries hosting refugees on their lands, Pakistan is not keen on forced repatriation of refugees. Thanks to the mildness in the state attitude towards refugees, there are many success stories. Their success stories tell us that they have succeeded in finding peace and prosperity for themselves. Moreover, their contributions to the country’s economy are also healthy ones.

Nevertheless, refugees who are living in Pakistan for years live their days and nights with a constant fear of possible forced repatriation. While the government of Pakistan is in continuous contact with the Afghan authorities over the repatriation of Afghan refugees, the Rohingyas still have no official status. Most of these refugees declare themselves Bengalis to get citizenships, jobs and other social benefits and rights. Is it not the right time for the government of Pakistan to rethink the refugee question?

True, dealing with the issue of refugees has always remained a thorny subject amongst the political parties of the country. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) criticised the Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan in the harshest terms when he suggested granting citizenship rights to refugees living in Pakistan. Others were not happy with PM Khan’s idea. Does such resistance not make these parties morally inconsistent when they criticise Islamophobia and xenophobia abroad while practicing the same detesting ideas at home?

The incumbent government once said that it would hold a debate on the idea of granting citizenship to the refugees living in Pakistan. However, the delay shows that the government has sensed that the idea is an unpopular one. Therefore, it has relegated it very low on its priority list. Considering the huge talent among the Rohingya community, this reshuffling of priorities is a tragedy.