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PR Short Notes


Photo Source: The Express Tribune

Pakistan Reader# 672, 5 October 2023

Pakistan’s Afghan Refugees: The government’s plan to push back



the interim minister for information in Balochistan declared that the Afghan refugees had just 27 days left to exit the country.

Shamini Velayutham

On 3 October, all unauthorized immigrants, including a disproportionately large number of Afghans, were given an ultimatum by the federal apex committee to leave by 31 October or risk being imprisoned and deported. This was a follow-up to the recommendations made on 27 September by the top committee of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Federal and provincialgovernments are scrambling to put together a workable plan to carry out what could become as one of the most substantial eviction operations in the modern era as the target date to repatriate over a million undocumented Afghans and other foreigners.
 
Harsh response from Kabul
On 4 October, with more than half of the Afghan community living in KP, the short deadline has alarmed the entire Afghan community across Pakistan. Zabihullah Mujahid, the top spokesman for the Afghan Taliban, expressed his outrage at the decision by calling Pakistan's "behavior" against Afghan refugees "unacceptable" and urging Islamabad to rethink its course of action. He apprised Pakistan should allow them since Afghan refugees are not to blame for Pakistan's security issues. Pakistan ought to accept them as long as they depart of their own volition.
 
Meanwhile, as a result of ongoing disputes between the two countries, two Pakistani nationals were killed by the Afghan border force at the Chaman border crossing without provocation. According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), an Afghan sentry working at the Friendship Gate of Chaman border crossing, which is located along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the Balochistan province, opened fire on pedestrians crossing the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan without provocation or warning.
 
Internal Responses: For and against the eviction
Dawn referring to an official wrote that the issue of returning Afghan refugees to their country has long been a priority, especially following the December 2014 release of the National Action Plan (NAP). Plans were developed, and tactics were solidified, but no real attempt was made to create a feasible logistical plan supported by human and financial resources.

During a press conference at the Quetta Press Club, Jan Achakzai, the interim minister for information in Balochistan declared that the Afghan refugees had just 27 days left to exit the country. He cautioned that if the eviction order were not followed after the deadline had passed, severe action would be taken. He said that no international pressure would be tolerated in this regard and also claimed that Afghan refugees had harmed the nation and added that after the departure of the refugees, crime will decline.

On the contrary, an editorial in the Dawn “Targeting Afghans,” expressed that it is impossible to wish the Afghans gone. They are woven into the social fabric of the area, therefore a sympathetic, long-term solution to their suffering must be discovered. They will only plant the seeds of future strife if Pakistan abandon them in a hurry.

Afghan Refugees in Pakistan
There are 2.18 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This includes the 1.3 million refugees who now possess Proof of Registration (POR) cards, as determined by the 2006 to 2007 census, as well as the extra 880,000 refugees who received Afghan Citizens Cards (ACCs) in 2017 as a result of a registration push in 2017. According to Pakistan’s government estimates, a new wave of 600,000 to 800,000 Afghans entered Pakistan after the collapse of the Afghan Republic and the re-emergence of the Afghan Taliban in August 2021. Some of these people are from Afghanistan and had legitimate visas but are currently staying. Monitoring the issues in Islamabad, a senior official informed Dawn over the phone, Unknown numbers of illegal immigrants from Afghanistan fall somewhere between the three aforementioned categories. He said that "from a security, social, and economic standpoint, this is a serious concern."
 
References
Ismail Khan, “Ultimatum to illegal aliens poses historic dilemma,” Dawn, 5 September 2023
“Targeting Afghans,” Dawn, 5 September 2023
Mariana Baabar and Muhammad Anis & Sher Ali Khalti, “Kabul rejects deportation policy amid Pakistan resolve,” The News International, 5 September 2023

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