Certain refugees may get permission to stay


Certain refugees may get permission to stay PESHAWAR: With months to go for the expiry of the umpteenth extension, the federal government has prepared a set of proposals to grant stay incentives to Afghan investors, students and those seeking medical treatment in addition to those having Pakistani spouses.

Official sources insisted the state and frontier regions ministry had suggested allowing certain categories of interested Afghan nationals to continue with temporary stay in Pakistan.

They said under the proposed policy, the government would grant multiple entry visas to Afghan students, investors and those with Pakistani spouses, while the people coming for health reasons would be granted visa on arrival at Torkham.

Ministry suggests multiple entry visas for Afghan investors, students and those having Pakistani spouses

A senior official said the draft policy would be put up to the cabinet for approval.

He said the Safron ministry after receiving proposals from various political parties had completed its homework on the matter and was likely to send the summary to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat after Muharram.

The official said Afghan investors, students and those, who had married to local women, would apply for visas through the office of the chief commissioner for Afghan refugees in Islamabad or its provincial offices, while the offices concerned would refer their visa applications along with documents to the interior ministry for verification.

He said the proposed incentives would facilitate Afghan nationals, who had Pakistani wives, and didn’t want to go to Afghanistan for some reasons.

The official said the package would also facilitate Afghan investors, students and those wanting to get medical treatment in Pakistan.

The sources said Afghan nationals, who wedded to Pakistani women, would be provided five-year multiple visa.

Under the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951, a male foreigner married to a Pakistan woman can’t get Pakistani nationality.

The issue surfaced when many Pakistani women married to Afghan nationals staged protest demonstrations in Peshawar and sought the country’s citizenship for their husbands.

Pakistani spouses are reluctant to go along with their husbands to Afghanistan for certain reasons.

Scores of Afghan nationals living in Pakistan, particularly in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata for more than three decades, are married to Pakistani women. Similarly, Afghan women have also tied knot with local husbands.

An official said all such people would have to renew their visas every five years to be able to stay if they wanted.

Currently, Afghan nationals holding Afghan passport but living in Pakistan for long are allowed visa/visa extension for a period of six months with one re-entry.

If the federal cabinet approves the Safron ministry’s recommendations, then Afghan nationals will get five years multiple entry visas in future.

Officials said the ministry had also recommended granting five-year multiple entry business visas to genuine Afghan investors.

They said Afghan passport holders would have to declare their investment over Rs5 million in Pakistan for getting five years multiple visas. Besides, they will also pay all relevant taxes and duties.

An Afghan carpet dealer in the city, who belongs to Kandahar, told Dawn that he had applied for business category visa because his family had decided to continue business in Peshawar and Islamabad.

He said he would pay $12, 000 additional fee if he was granted business visa.

Officials believed majority of investors and businessmen had already shifted to Kabul due to investment opportunities in their country.

They said very small number of Afghans was expected to apply for business category visas.

Sources said the ministry had proposed the grant of visa to Afghan nationals seeking medical care on arrival at the Torkham crossing point.

Afghans used to come to Peshawar for medical treatment via Torkham without visa.

However, their number has drastically reduced since the government restricted illegal cross border movement at Torkham crossing point and chocked unfrequented routes along its western border under the border management plan introduced at Torkham on June 1.

The sources said the Afghan nationals wanting admission to public sector local universities and other professional institutions will apply for student visas and that they’ll require no-objection certificate from the Higher Education Commission prior to the submission of applications to the interior ministry for student visas.

The government has reserved seats for refugees in professional colleges and universities across the country.

Source: http://www.dawn.com/news/1288975/certain-refugees-may-get-permission-to-stay-on

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