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    Delhi HC frees 65 Pak detainees, allows to stay

    New Delhi: A total of 65 Pakistani nationals, detained for staying in India without valid documents, would be released from jail and allowed to live in Delhi for three months after the Delhi High Court on Thursday agreed to the submissions of the UNHCR, which has granted them refugee status.

    Petitioner and Pakistani national Saifullah Bajwa's advocate Meenakshi Arora submitted before Justice Mukta Gupta that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has granted refugee status to the 65 Pakistanis presently lodged in Tihar Jail.

    "The government of India has also agreed to the UNHCR having granted refugee status to the Pakistanis. Accordingly, the government has allowed them to stay in Delhi for a period of three months during which the UNHCR will look for third countries to relocate them," said Arora.

    "After their release from jail they will have to report to DCP (deputy commissioner of police), special branch, once a month," said the court.

    Justice Gupta would hear the case next May 6.

    The court was hearing a plea to hand over the Pakistanis, detained in 2007, to the UNHCR.

    Justice Hima Kohli earlier directed the home ministry not to take a decision to deport the Pakistani nationals till April 28.

    The court gave its interim order while hearing the petition filed by Bajwa and others seeking relief.

    "Allow us to walk out on bail or else hand us over to the UNHCR," said the petitioner.

    The Pakistani nationals belonging to Gowhar Shahi sect, banned by the Pakistan government, have been under detention in Tihar Jail since April 23, 2007, after they staged a demonstration demanding asylum in India.

    "Refusing to return to their homeland, they had during their protests burnt the Pakistani flag, their passports and visa papers," said the petition.

    A division bench of the court earlier directed the central government not to deport the Pakistanis till March 2011 on the ground that the UNHCR had completed their interviews and a final report about their refugee status was yet to come.