The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Friday approved the applications of 109 Afghan nationals married to Pakistanis while ordering the issuance of Pakistan Origin Cards (POC) for them.
The decision was pronounced by a two-member PHC bench consisting of Justice Arshad Ali and Justice Waqar Ahmed.
Amid widespread fears of deportation to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, thousands of Afghans have gone into hiding in Pakistan since the hasty withdrawal of US-led Western forces in 2021.
Representing the petitioner, Saifullah Muhib Ullah Kakakhel argued that a foreign national can access the rights of a Pakistani through the POC. However, individuals holding such cards are restricted from obtaining a passport or casting a vote.
The court has accepted the applications and directed the issuance of POCs for all 109 Afghan nationals, with the hearing adjourned to a later date, to be determined by the registrar's office.
In the realm of cards available to Afghan immigrants in Pakistan, the Afghan Citizen Card, issued by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) permits Afghan nationals to reside in Pakistan under refugee status.
Another card, the Proof of Registration (PoR) card, provided by the UNHCR, legally allows them to stay in Pakistan, with entitlements to funding and facilities from international aid agencies. However, Pakistan retains the authority to repatriate PoR cardholders to their home countries at any time.
Although POC holders are excluded from obtaining a Pakistani passport or participating in elections, they enjoy other rights accorded to Pakistani citizens, allowing them to enter or exit Pakistan without a visa.
Earlier in the day, Supreme Court (SC) Judge Justice Ayesha Malik emphasized that Pakistan is bound by United Nations (UN) conventions safeguarding the rights of refugees.
This statement came as a three-member bench, including Justice Malik, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, and Justice Yahya Afridi, addressed petitions challenging the caretaker government's decision to expel illegal immigrants, with the applications seeking restraining orders against the decision.
Since October 1, over 370,000 Afghans have left Pakistan after the caretaker government's directive for illegal immigrants to leave the country by November 1 or face deportation.
Pakistan is home to more than 4 million Afghan migrants and refugees, with approximately 1.7 million undocumented individuals among them.