Accession of Pakistan to the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees: ‘Signing on Could Make All the Difference’

One of the means UNHCR uses to attract accessions is a brochure entitled: “The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. Signing on Could Make All the Difference”. Accession to the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol would indeed make a difference, but not just the one, or rather ones, implied by UNHCR. This article identifies and sketches the nature of this other difference. The other difference that ‘signing on’ could make, can be made visible when some of the consequences of accession are viewed from the perspective of the current situation, that is, the Afghan refugee population in Pakistan including the obligations Pakistan incurred so far, predominantly in the form of bilateral agreements concluded between Pakistan and UNHCR regarding the Afghan refugees. The difference will be demonstrated by highlighting the personal scope of the obligations Pakistan would incur upon accession to the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol. It, in essence, constitutes a drawback and it poses a dilemma for Pakistan. This drawback is not confined to Pakistan and is, moreover, related to a systemic flaw in the protective global regime that was created for refugees in the wake of the Second World War.

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