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PR Short Notes


Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 675, 9 October 2023

23 days left for “Illegal aliens” to “voluntarily” flee Pakistan



The Pakistani government and military have accused the Taliban administration of its inability to curb terrorist activities

Femy Francis

On 7 October, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) issued a joint statement extending their support for registering Afghan nationals in Pakistan. They issued: “provide support in developing a comprehensive and sustainable mechanism to register and manage Afghan nationals, including those who may require international protection.” They appealed that Pakistan should continue to protect all assailable who have sought refuge in Pakistan and would face risk upon returning. It is estimated that there are 1.3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan out of which 880,000 are legal refugees.

Additionally, Pakistan has sought the Taliban-governed Afghan government to establish a sub-consulate in Chaman, Balochistan a strategic city situated near Afghanistan and Pakistan border. They want to establish mechanisms to issue on-arrival visas for the returning refugees. The devasting earthquake in Afghanistan has further aggravated the concerns. A systemic expulsion of Afghan nationals both documented and undocumented has been encouraged, with tenants indiscriminately evicting them and rounding them at police stations. There have been complaints heard that individuals are using the vulnerable condition of Afghan nationals to extort bribes in turn for safety.

Repatriation of “illegal” Afghan Nationals in Pakistan
Caretaker Interim Minister Sarfraz Bugti announced till 1 November for the voluntary return of illegal Afghan nationals from Pakistan after which law enforcement will kickstart the deportation process. This comes after the apex court meeting on the National Action Plan at the Prime Minister’s House chaired by the interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar, attended by COAS Asim Munir and federal ministers amongst others present. They discussed the security issues grappling Pakistan and the need for the withdrawal of “illegal aliens” from the country by formalizing border movement activities. Additionally, they planned a crackdown against trade and property accusations of the “aliens”. There are plans to establish three camps in Chaman, to hold undocumented migrants before they are deported back. Bugti stressed that the government's priority lies in the “welfare and security of a Pakistani are most important for us over any country or its policy. The first decision taken is about our illegal immigrants who are living in Pakistan through illegal means,” counting the days Interim Information Minister Murtaza Solangi announced that there are 28 days left for them to leave. 

Furthermore, Bugti informed that e-tazkiras would be only valid till 31 October after which they can only stay with official visa and passport documents. The frenzy saw a new level of paranoia when he also announced that the government would use DNA testing to weed out Afghans holding illegal Pakistani identity cards.

Hike in terrorist activities in Pakistan
Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the Pakistani government has found an exponential rise in terrorist activities. It is reckoned that there were 24 suicide attacks since January 2023 out of which 14 bombings were claimed by Afghan-based terrorist organizations. The Pakistani government and military have accused the Taliban administration of its inability to curb terrorist activities and providing a safe haven, launching pad for terrorists to attack Pakistan. A report by Pak Institute for Peace Studies titled ‘Pakistan’s Afghan Perspective and Policy Options’ found that the most affected regions are Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan infiltrated by terror and militant organizations like Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan and Balochistan Liberation Army, has seen a surge in terror activities to 92 and 81 per cent.

Responses
While the detainment is claimed largely to be against the illegal settlers, contrarily the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad claims that the arrest has been indiscriminate with thousands detained out of which half are legal refugees. UNHCR spokesperson Qaisar Afridi said: “Pakistan has remained a generous refugee host for decades. This role has been acknowledged globally but more needs to be done to match its generosity,”

Amnesty International of South Asia posted: “Many Afghans living in fear of persecution by the Taliban had fled to Pakistan, where they have been subjected to waves of arbitrary detentions, arrests, and the threat of deportation. It is deeply concerning that the situation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan is not receiving due international attention.” A former senator Afrasiab Khattak warned against government plans of treating Afghan refugees as “vanquished people” and that they are sowing seeds of “intense hatred” that will further “breed animosity” reaped by generation of Afghans refugees, essentially being detrimental to Afghan-Pakistan relations. Social Worker Menna Gabeen highlighted the violent repercussions of such actions would be faced by the most vulnerable Hazara community, who have historically faced targeted violence by the Taliban. JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman opposed the discriminatory treatment against Afghans stating that this would create bitterness with Afghanistan and that they should give the war-torn country more time to settle. He criticized that while the aim is to repatriate “illegal aliens”, they are only targeting the Pashtun community, “Are Pashtuns the only illegal aliens in the country.”

Interim Information Minister of Balochistan Jan Achakzai informed that the repatriation action was the country’s step towards becoming a “normal state.” Urging that several foreign companies and countries want to invest in Pakistan and are hesitant about the security risks in the country. He said: “We have to turn ourselves into a normal state. And for that, we need to secure our borders, as no normal state can afford to have porous borders.” Interim Minister Murtaza Solangi stated that the country cannot survive with soft borders.

References
Govt sets deadline of Nov 1 for illegal immigrants to leave Pakistan,” Dawn, 3 October 2023
Aleezeh Fatimah, “Concern over move to expel ‘illegal’ Afghans,” Dawn, 4 October 2023
Iftikhar A. Khan, “Terror attacks increased in Pakistan after Taliban takeover of Afghanistan: report,” Dawn, 1 June 2023
Saleem Shahid, “Pakistan seeks Kabul’s consulate in Chaman to ease visa process,” Dawn, 9 October 2023
Amin Ahmed, Manzoor Ali, “Pakistan must consider risks to returning Afghans, say UN agencies,” Dawn, 8 October 2023
UN agencies ‘stand ready to support Pakistan in registering, managing Afghan refugees,” Dawn, 7 October 2023
Turned away,” Dawn, 9 October 2023

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