GZERO Media logo

Why Would Pakistan Grant Citizenship to 1.5 Million Refugees?

Why Would Pakistan Grant Citizenship to 1.5 Million Refugees?

Most of the stories you read about refugees these days involve governments struggling to support them or trying to manage popular backlashes against them. In some cases, they involve active efforts to strip them of their rights. So it was something of a surprise when Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan announced over the weekend that he wants to grant citizenship to some 1.5 million Afghan refugees living in his country.

By way of background: Pakistan is home to the world’s second largest refugee population—many of whom fled neighboring Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion of their country in 1979, or after the US-led invasion in 2001. Those people, and their descendants, are all considered refugees under international law and Islamabad’s position until now has been: they have to go home.

Why is Khan taking this step now? Whatever Mr. Khan’s benevolent motivations might be, his proposal also carries a political calculation. In Pakistan’s elections earlier this year, members of the Pashtun ethnic group voted in large numbers for Mr. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI), sweeping him to power. As it happens, a majority of the Afghan refugees in Pakistan are Pashtuns, meaning that integrating them—by issuing government IDs and access to social services—could help to shore up, and even expand, his political base.

Will Pakistan’s all-powerful military, which holds sway over immigration policy, allow this? The generals have long favored refugees' repatriation to Afghanistan, seeing them as a security threat. And in the past they have reportedly used them as a bargaining chip with Kabul and Washington, knowing that dumping 1.5 million people in a weak state like Afghanistan could trigger a humanitarian and political crisis for the US-backed government there. Just days ago, Pakistan’s foreign minister spoke in Kabul of plans for an orderly repatriation. Khan’s proposal now sets up a big fight.

But at a moment when backlashes against immigrants are becoming more common, Khan’s words offered a stark contrast to the current zeitgeist: “Why are they treated without dignity?” he asked. “They are humans, how have we deprived them for 30-40 years?”

Empathy and listening are key to establishing harmonious relationships, as demonstrated by Callista Azogu, GM of Human Resources & Organization for Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), an Eni subsidiary in Abuja. "To build trust is very difficult. To destroy it is very easy," says Callista, whose busy days involve everything from personnel issues to union relationships. She sees great potential for her native Nigeria not only because of the country's natural resources, but because of its vibrant and creative people.

Learn more about Callista in this episode of Faces of Eni.

For the world's wealthiest nations, including the United States, the rollout of COVID-19 vaccine has been rocky, to say the least. And as a result, much of the developing world will have to wait even longer for their turn. Part of the challenge, World Bank President David Malpass says, is that "advanced economies have reserved a lot of the vaccine doses." Malpass sat down with Ian Bremmer recently to talk about what his organization is doing to try to keep millions around the world from slipping deeper into poverty during the pandemic. Their conversation was part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Saturday will mark the beginning of an historic turning point for European politics as 1,001 voting members of Germany's Christian Democratic Union, the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, hold an online conference to elect a new leader.

Here are the basic facts:

More Show less

For the first time in twenty years, extreme poverty around the world is growing. How does the developing world recover from a pandemic that has brought even the richest nations to their knees? David Malpass, the President of the World Bank, is tasked with answering that question. He joins Ian Bremmer on GZERO World to talk about how his organization is trying to keep the developing world from slipping further into poverty in the wake of a once-in-a-century pandemic.

Joe Biden wants to move into the White House, but the coast isn't clear. He may need some bleach.

Watch more PUPPET REGIME here.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal