Pakistan asks illegal Afghans to leave or face deportation

Islamabad: Hundreds of thousands of Afghans living illegally in Pakistan have been given until November 1 to leave voluntarily or face deportation, the interior minister said. The order comes as Pakistan grapples with a rise in attacks the government blames on terrorists operating from Afghanistan, a charge Kabul routinely denies.

Around 1.3 million Afghans are registered refugees in Pakistan and 880,000 more have legal status to remain, according to the latest United Nations figures. But caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti said a further 1.7 million Afghans were in Pakistan illegally.

“The illegal immigrants and illegal foreign nationals who are living in Pakistan are given a deadline of November 1. If they do not go… then all the law enforcement agencies in the provinces or federal government will be utilized to deport them,” Bugti told reporters in Islamabad.

In a statement posted on X, Afghanistan’s embassy said more than 1,000 Afghans have been detained in the past two weeks — half of them despite having a legal right to be in Pakistan.

For years, Afghans entering Pakistan through land borders have been allowed to use their national identity cards as a travel document. There is a huge waiting list in Afghanistan for nationals seeking to get passports, and obtaining a Pakistan visa can take months.

Bugti also warned of a crackdown on property and businesses owned by Afghans in Pakistan. “A task force has been formed for that purpose at the interior ministry. All the properties and businesses of those living here illegally are out of our tax net,” he said.

Afghans have poured into Pakistan in their millions during decades of successive wars, many living in refugee camps with restricted access to education, healthcare and employment. An estimated 600,000 have arrived since the Taliban seized power in Kabul in August 2021 and imposed their austere version of Islamic law.

Image courtesy of X@PakSarfrazbugti

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