Pakistan defends drive against aliens as deadline set to expire

Caretaker Info Minister Murtaza Solangi says nearly 200,000 Afghans returned to their country in last two months

Kamran Yousaf October 30, 2023
Afghan refugees arrive in trucks to cross the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Torkham. Photo: AFP


Pakistan on Monday rejected criticism of its crackdown against foreigners residing in the country illegally, saying the decision was not in violation of international conventions.

As the deadline for all such foreigners expires on Tuesday, the UN High Commission for Human Rights and other international organisations raised concerns over Pakistan’s move to deport nearly 1.7 million Afghans.

“We have seen the press statement by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,” said an official handout issued by the foreign office spokesperson.

The spokesperson clarified that the Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan (IFRP) applies to all illegal foreigners residing in Pakistan, irrespective of their nationality and country of origin. “The decision is in exercise of Pakistan's sovereign domestic laws, and compliant with applicable international norms and principles,” Mumtaz Zahra Baloch explained.

She made it clear that all foreign nationals legally residing/registered in Pakistan were beyond the purview of this plan.

The statement further said the Government of Pakistan took its commitments towards protection and safety needs of those in vulnerable situations with utmost seriousness.

“Our record of the last forty years in hosting millions of our Afghan brothers and sisters speaks for itself,” she noted.

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At the same time, the spokesperson urged the international community to scale up collective efforts to address protracted refugee situations through advancing durable solutions as a matter of priority. “Pakistan will continue to work with our international partners to this end.”

Meanwhile, the federal cabinet has finalised a plan for the repatriation of all illegal foreigners. Information Minister Murtaza Solangi told a news conference that nearly 200,000 Afghans returned to their country in the last two months.

Solangi insisted that the crackdown was not targeted against the nationality of a particular country. The minister said special care was being given to women, children and elderly during the repatriation campaign.

The government has decided to set up what it calls holding centers, where undocumented Afghans would be kept before being deported to Afghanistan.

The information minister said those who were living in Pakistan illegally could come back by obtaining valid visas.

He warned that those who rented out their residences to illegal foreigners were partners in crime and they would be dealt with accordingly.

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Pakistan decided to evict all illegal Afghans as part of its wider strategy keeping in view the security and economic situation.

The country’s interior minister revealed that this year 28 suicide attacks were carried out in Pakistan and half of them were carried out by Afghans, who entered the country illegally.

The campaign against such Afghans is also seen in the context of tense relationship between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban government, which is reluctant to neutralise the threat posed by banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Official sources said certain western countries wanted Pakistan to review its decision but authorities decided that there would not be any change in the deadline or plan.


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