Afghanistan Calls Pakistan’s Decision to Expel Undocumented Afghan Nationals ‘Unacceptable’

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Afghanistan Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid has expressed his dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s decision to expel undocumented Afghan nationals, calling it “unacceptable”. He has urged authorities to reconsider this policy.

The Pakistan government, led by caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar, issued an ultimatum on October 31 to all undocumented immigrants, including Afghan nationals, to either leave the country or face imprisonment and deportation. The decision was made during a meeting of the apex committee, attended by the army chief and other officials. The committee also decided to strictly enforce the use of passports and visas for border crossings, with electronic Afghan identity cards (e-tazkiras) being accepted only until October 31.

After the deadline passes, authorities will initiate an operation targeting illegal properties and businesses owned by immigrants or those involved in partnerships with Pakistani nationals.

In a statement shared on social media, Mujahid emphasized that the treatment of Afghan refugees in Pakistan is unacceptable, and called for a revision of the policy. He stated that Afghan refugees are not responsible for Pakistan’s security problems and that Pakistan should tolerate them as long as they leave voluntarily.

The Pakistani Foreign Office has not yet issued a statement regarding this matter.

According to the United Nations, there are approximately 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan, with an additional 880,000 having legal status to remain. However, the government claims that there are 1.7 million more Afghans residing in the country illegally.

The announcement of this policy has raised concerns among various quarters. Former PPP senator Farhatullah Babar criticized the government’s treatment of refugees, stating that the government is once again using them for their own objectives. He warned that this approach would likely lead to a backlash, as a tripartite agreement allows only voluntary repatriation.

The Afghanistan Embassy in Islamabad accused the Punjab and Sindh police of conducting a ruthless operation against Afghan refugees, without distinguishing between genders and even arresting women and children. Amnesty International also criticized the Pakistani government for creating a fearful environment for refugees. A United Nations official stated that any refugee returns should be voluntary and without pressure, in order to ensure the protection of those seeking safety.

September has witnessed an increase in the rounding up and detention of Afghan refugees, with the government justifying this crackdown due to illegal immigration and rising crime. However, Afghans argue that the arrests have been indiscriminate.

It is worth noting that this discourse is occurring within the context of a broader state crackdown on Afghan refugees.

Additional reporting by Tahir Khan

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