Pakistan Orders Nearly 2 Million Illegal Afghans to Leave, Angering Taliban

Aimal Zahir/Xinhua via Getty Images

The Taliban blasted Pakistan Wednesday for ordering roughly 1.73 million Afghans living in the country illegally to leave by November 1.

The Pakistani government said it was prepared to use force to expel the migrants if they did not depart voluntarily.

“The behavior of Pakistan towards Afghan refugees is unacceptable,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

“The Pakistani side should reconsider its plan. Afghan refugees are not involved in Pakistan’s security problems. As long as they leave Pakistan voluntarily, that country should tolerate them,” he said.

Mujahid was referring to Pakistan’s contention that the flood of migrants from Afghanistan poses a major security risk. Pakistani Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti noted on Tuesday that Afghan nationals were involved in 14 of the 24 suicide bombings carried out against Pakistan so far this year:

There are no two opinions that we are attacked from within Afghanistan and Afghan nationals are involved in attacks on us. We have evidence that Afghans were involved in these attacks and are taking up the issue through our foreign ministry with Taliban authorities in Afghanistan.

According to the Pakistani interior minister, there are currently 4.4 million Afghans living in Pakistan, 1.7 million without legal documentation. He said the deportation order would not apply to those with legal residency or those who have been granted refugee status.

Afghan refugees living in Pakistan

Afghan refugees live under poor conditions at Basti Refugee Camp in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 5, 2022. (Muhammed Semih Ugurlu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“All illegal immigrants residing in Pakistan have until November 1 to return to their countries voluntarily,” Bugti said. “And if they fail to leave by the deadline, all our state law enforcement agencies will unleash an operation with full-throttle to deport them.”

Bugti further chastised the Taliban regime for “not honoring the edict” given by their supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhunddza, to prevent extremists from attacking Pakistan across the border.

“We hope and respect him greatly and expect his edict to be enforced in letter and spirit,” Bugti said.

The most active terrorist threat against Pakistan at the moment is Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), often referred to as the “Pakistani Taliban.” The group is ideologically aligned with the Afghan Taliban and hopes to overthrow the nominally secular Pakistani government to establish an “Islamic emirate” like the one that now rules Afghanistan.

The Pakistani government complains that TTP attacks increased in tempo and severity after the Taliban captured Kabul in 2021 and says TTP militants are increasingly armed with sophisticated American weapons abandoned by President Joe Biden during his chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Islamabad-based journalist Zahid Hussain told the Associated Press (AP) on Wednesday he doubted the caretaker Pakistani government — which was seated in August and is only supposed to rule until the next election in late January — could successfully implement the first major crackdown on illegal immigrants in recent history.

“It will not be an easy task to accomplish as how can you detain or expel 1.7 million unregistered Afghan people? It is going to further strain ties between the two sides,” Hussain cautioned.

The Afghan embassy in Islamabad complained that roughly a thousand Afghan refugees had been arrested in the past two weeks as the crackdown ramped up, and half of them did have valid immigration or travel documents. The Pakistani government has not released any details of these arrests.

“Despite the repeated promises of the Pakistan authorities, the arrest and harassment of Afghan refugees by the police in Pakistan continues,” the Afghan embassy said.

Deutsche Welle (DW) on Tuesday cited a Pakistani government source who said the caretaker government plans to go even further than Bugti admitted: “In the first phase, illegal residents, in the second phase, those with Afghan citizenship, and in the third phase those with proof of residence cards will be expelled.”


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