KARACHI: Police in Pakistan’s southern Karachi port city have arrested hundreds of Afghan nationals in the last few days for allegedly residing unlawfully in the country, though a senior diplomat from Afghanistan and a human rights activist have said that many of those apprehended possessed valid documents.
Pakistani authorities initiated the crackdown on Saturday, making some speculate it was in response to reported militant infiltration from Afghanistan into the country’s Chitral district where four security personnel were killed in a gunbattle that took place on Thursday. The incident prompted Pakistan to issue a demarche to the Afghan charge d’affaires in Islamabad to lodge “strong protest over the incident.”
According to a spokesperson for the Karachi police, 293 Afghan nationals were booked under the Foreigners Act during the three-day crackdown.
Moniza Kakar, a lawyer and human rights activist, took to social media to voice concerns, saying that Afghan refugees had been arrested by the police who also confiscated their proof of registration (PoR) cards.
“Alarming situation in Karachi as 150+ Afghan refugees, many registered, face arrests with reported confiscation of their registration cards by police,” she wrote on X messaging platform. “Mass arrests of Afghan refugees in Karachi is based on their racial profiling. Urgent action needed to protect refugees’ rights.”
Kala Khan, an Afghan refugee born in Muslim Bagh, Balochistan, said he had been living in Karachi for the past 35 years, but he was arrested, along with eight others, despite being in possession of the PoR cards.
“The police took copies of our PoR cards and registered a case against us,” he told Arab News while he was brought to the court on Tuesday. “They demanded a bribe, and as we were unable to provide it, they proceeded with the case, taking our cards from us.”
The Karachi police spokesperson and SSP East Irfan Bahadur did not respond to the request for a comment related to the allegation.
Syed Abdul Jabbar, Consul General of Afghanistan in Karachi, said his office had formally communicated its concern to Pakistani authorities.
“When we contacted the federal authorities in Islamabad and provincial authorities in Sindh, they assured us that no registered Afghan refugees would be arrested,” he continued. “However, the police are continuously arresting registered Afghan refugees.”
Jabbar urged Pakistani authorities not to arrest registered Afghan refugees, adding: “Those who don’t possess document should be given time to travel back to their country.”
When contacted, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the foreign ministry spokesperson, suggested contacting the interior ministry for an official response. However, the caretaker interior minister, Sarfraz Bugti, did not respond to requests for a comment.