Pakistan government has warned illegal immigrants. He has told the illegal immigrants to either leave the country by November 1, otherwise action will be taken to expel them.
The largest number of illegal immigrants in Pakistan are Afghan citizens.
The government has made this announcement after two blasts in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
About 60 people were killed and many were injured in these blasts. These blasts took place during a religious gathering organized on the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammed.
Some international human rights organizations have expressed concern over this policy of the Pakistan government. The Afghan Taliban has requested Pakistan to review the expulsion plan.
Pakistan’s caretaker government’s Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti gave this information in a press conference in Islamabad.
He said that this action will be taken against citizens of all countries. He said that among the illegal immigrants, about 17 lakh are Afghan citizens.
The Home Minister warned the migrants living without valid documents to go back to their country by the end of October.
He said that those who do not do so will be arrested. He also said that the government will confiscate the businesses and properties of immigrants without valid documents.
He said that the government will reward people who give information about illegal immigrants. Bugti said that a special public phone line is being made for this. Bugti said that a task force has been formed to investigate and eliminate fake national identity cards.
The new announcements related to immigration were made after the meeting of the Apex Committee on Security and National Action Plan against Extremism.
The meeting was presided over by interim Prime Minister Anwarul Haq Kakar. Army Chief General Syed Asim Munir and others were present in it. The people attending the meeting supported the new policy before it was announced.
Earlier, there was a policy of giving special travel permits to the tribal people on the Pak-Afghanistan border. The Home Minister said that now only Afghan citizens with valid passport and visa can enter Pakistan and live here.
Increasing extremist attacks in Pakistan
After increasing attacks in the country, changes have been made in the immigration policy. Pakistan blames the terrorist groups present in Afghanistan for the increase in attacks.
Especially, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP. Pakistan believes that after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, most of the big leaders and operators of TTP have gone to Afghanistan. There they have found shelter in the border areas.
There are 24 big blasts in Pakistan in 2023. Bugti claimed that 14 of these blasts were carried out by Afghan civilians.
He said that out of the 11 militants involved in the recent attack on two army installations in Balochistan, eight are Afghan citizens.
He said, “We have evidence that Afghans are involved in these attacks.” We are raising this matter with Taliban officials in Afghanistan through the Ministry of External Affairs. ,
In the last one year, Pakistan has raised this issue with Afghanistan several times.
There have also been visits by many high level delegations. The Foreign Office has summoned Afghan diplomats and handed over evidence of involvement of Afghan citizens in the attacks.
However, the Afghan Taliban has always denied using its soil for attacks in Pakistan. He has been calling it a matter of domestic security of Pakistan.
Taliban’s reaction to Pakistan’s new policy
Zaibullah, the spokesperson of the interim Taliban government of Afghanistan, has reacted to the new immigration policy of the Pakistan government. He said that Pakistan’s behavior towards Afghan refugees is unacceptable. He has appealed to Pakistan to reconsider this.
He wrote on Twitter, “Afghan refugees are not included in Pakistan’s security problems. Unless they leave voluntarily, Pakistan should let them stay.
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On Twitter, the Embassy of Afghanistan alleged that the police are harassing Afghan citizens in Islamabad and its surrounding areas.
“Their houses are being raided day and night. “Thousands of people have so far been arrested by anti-extremism police, half of whom are people who have valid travel documents.”
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Arrests in Islamabad and Karachi
According to Islamabad Police, so far 65 cases have been registered against illegal immigrants in the capital. Police have detained about 400 people from hotels and other places. Some media reports say that similar arrests have also been made in Karachi.
Earlier thousands of Afghans had the card of being of Pakistani origin. This card allows them to stay in Pakistan. But most of these cards have now expired and the government has not yet renewed them.
Human rights organization Amnesty International has expressed deep concern over Pakistan’s new immigration policy. Amnesty said in a statement that these people have been arbitrarily detained, arrested and threatened with deportation.
The organization has said that it is extremely worrying that the situation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan is not being given proper attention at the international level.
Some local human rights activists have also criticized this policy. These activists have asked the government to make an exception for those Afghan citizens who are in precarious situations and are seeking to maintain human dignity.
Journalist Ejaz Saeed has reacted to this development. He said that even though Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti has the experience of running the Home Ministry in extremism and violence-hit Balochistan, it seems that he will face many challenges in implementing the measures he has announced.
UNHCR also came in protest
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is also opposing the idea of forcing migrants to return and setting a time limit for this.
Qaiser Afridi, UNHRC spokesperson in Islamabad, told the BBC that many of the undocumented Afghan citizens are in need of international protection.
If these people are forced to return, their lives may be in danger. He said that UNHRC is urging Pakistan to prepare a plan for the management of those who are unregistered, so that they can be organized and brought into the system.
The spokesperson said, “Pakistan has very generously hosted millions of Afghan refugees for decades. We look forward to continuing this work with their cooperation.”
Sirajuddin is a senior journalist of Peshawar. He is skeptical about the new policy of the government. They feel that it will hardly yield any results.
He says, “This is not the first time we have seen such an announcement. Similar steps were taken immediately after the attack on Peshawar Army Public School in 2014. Action was taken at that time also. Hundreds of people were arrested and deported. This went on for some time and then gradually ended.
Pakistan’s declining economy and Afghan citizens
Sirajuddin is not sure how the new policy will work.
“Concerns about security are legitimate and real,” he says. But the issue is more complex than it seems. This is going to affect thousands of families and their livelihoods. Undocumented Afghan refugees have become part of Pakistan’s gray economy.
”They are doing business openly and owning properties. Some people have been living here for generations. I would be very surprised if this policy works. However, he believes that if this happens, it will create more opportunities for the local people.
Pakistan’s frustration does not stem only from the deteriorating security situation. This is also because of the country’s ailing economy, which has created challenges. Pakistan believes that many documented and undocumented Afghans are involved in smuggling of commodities like sugar and wheat and misappropriation of dollars in collusion with the local people.
“Officials believe that due to this the difference in dollar exchange rates between interbank and open markets has increased. According to Malik Bostan, President of Pakistan Forex Association, more than 90 percent of the exchange business has gone into the black market.
A Bloomberg report earlier this year claimed that millions of dollars are smuggled from Pakistan to Afghanistan every day.
It is wreaking havoc on Pakistan’s economy and becoming a lifeline for the Afghan Taliban. It was said in this report that this smuggling of dollars was helping them avoid the restrictions imposed on the government of Afghanistan after the Taliban took over in 2021.
Journalist Sirajuddin says that Afghan people were extensively involved in dollar hoarding and black marketing.
He said that the authorities started taking action against such hoarders and black marketers in September. The result was that the value of the Pakistani rupee increased against the dollar.
Analysts believe that Pakistan’s Afghan paradox is not new. Only time will tell whether Pakistan will be able to implement what it has announced or not, but one thing is clear that this will put a lot of pressure on its relations with Afghanistan as well as its partnership with the international community.