ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Tuesday said Pakistan could not continue to ignore the issue of non-citizens and needed a policy to grant citizenship rights to those who had been living here for decades, were born or married here.Speaking on a point of order at the National Assembly, the prime minister said the issue of ignoring the vital segment of society was not doing the country any good. “We were informed at a briefing in Karachi that most of those involved in street crimes belonged to this section of society. Since they were not granted citizenship they were not able to get admission to schools or get a job. What else would they do?”“We are producing an underclass,” Imran Khan warned and said a policy needed to be devised in this regard. He agreed with Akhtar Mengal, who said that Pakistan had inked an agreement for the return of Afghan refugees. But, he said that under the Pakistan law of 1951, the children born in Pakistan get the citizenship status. It is the same in many other countries, he added.He said Pakistan had different laws for the refugees and for those who came from Bangladesh, around 45 years back. “For generations, they have not been given the right and are being exploited. Neither they can return, nor can they get citizenship,” he said. Imran Khan said he had taken up this issue since it was a human rights issue.“We are dealing with humans. We have to look after them,” he added.The prime minister said a policy decision, after a thorough debate, in this regard was necessary and said, “If we don’t do it now, who will do it?”He said that under the international conventions, refugees could not be forced to return. He said that the issue in Pakistan was being looked after by the UNHCR. “However, the government needs to formulate a plan to cater to those who have been living here for a long time, have got married, and have children.” He said that the children of refugees born in the European Union had a right to citizenship.Published in Daily Times, September 19th 2018.