Many people in the country and around the world know Prime Minister Imran Khan for being an iconoclast. And indeed, he has proved this once again in the age of extremes. Even when the civilised world has turned its back upon the refugees, PM Khan has taken a step long due by allowing registered Afghan refugees to operate bank accounts in the country. The directions of the PM will allow Afghan refugees to become part of the formal economy of Pakistan. The move will have far-reaching positive impacts on the economic condition of both the refugees as well as Pakistan.

On the one hand, the decision will facilitate the Afghan people in business activities. On the other hand, it will strengthen Pakistan’s economy along with a step much needed to decrease money laundering. Moreover, different human rights groups appreciating Khan’s move will improve Pakistan’s soft image internationally. PM has shown yet again that he is a true humanitarian. Apart from improving the chances of Afghan refugees to participate more actively in business activities, operating bank accounts will ameliorate other hardships as well that Afghans are facing till now because of being unable to open bank accounts.

However, the real test before the Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government is to create a consensus among the political parties in the Parliament on the issue of granting citizenship rights to the refugees that have been living in the country for a long time. Afghans make the largest pie of the refugees living in Pakistan – estimated to be 2.4 million registered and undocumented ones who fled their homeland after wars of one sort or another.

Imran Khan last year comment about granting citizenship rights to refugees in Pakistan received a hostile and angry reaction from the opposition parties. And experiencing the hostile response, PTI fell for political correctness and put the issue on the back burner. However, just as Imran thinks that allowing Afghan refugees should have been allowed to operate bank accounts long ago, similarly, it is about time to grant citizenship to, at least, the ones who were born on Pakistani soil post-1979 who make almost three fourth of the refugees’ total population.

Though PTI retracted from granting citizenship to the refugees, the party has not even initiated a debate on the status of the refugees in general and Afghan refugees in particular. It is about time that the PTI government not only initiate a debate on granting citizenship rights to the refugees in Pakistan but also to convince the rest of the political parties as well in this regard.