ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s caretaker government has decided to evict 1.1 million ‘illegal foreigners’ because of what it calls their involvement in “funding, facilitating terrorists and other illegal activities,” state-owned APP news agency reported on Monday, in a decision that will likely hit Afghans.
Afghans have poured into Pakistan in the millions during decades of successive wars, many living in aid camps with restricted access to education, health care and employment. Around 1.3 million are registered refugees and 880,000 more have legal status to remain in Pakistan, according to the latest United Nations figures.
But since last month, police have launched a widening crackdown against those they say are without legal status and in response to rising terror attacks, crime and poor regulation of immigration that is straining resources. A majority of those arrested in the latest crackdown are Afghans.
“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,” APP reported.
“Illegally resident foreigners pose a serious threat to the security of Pakistan. A plan for eviction of illegally residing Afghan citizens has also been approved as this lot is involved in funding, facilitating and smuggling terrorists whereas 7 lacs [0.7 million] Afghans have not renewed their proof of residence in Pakistan.”
APP reported that illegal residents and those who had not renewed their visas would be deported in the first phase.
“In the second phase, those with Afghan citizenship will be deported, in the third phase, those with proof of residence cards will be deported,” the news agency said, adding that the plan had been prepared by the interior ministry in consultation with all stakeholders, including the Afghan government.
Kabul has not yet responded to the announcement of the eviction plan.
“The [interior] ministry has also issued directives to the concerned to compile a record of Afghans living without permits and prepare a transportation plan to bring them to the Afghan border,” APP said.
“Apart from checking the records of all the Afghans residing in the country the concerned officials were directed to quickly deal with the applications filed regarding the registration of Afghans.”
The crackdown comes amid a rise in terror attacks in Pakistan, mostly by militants belonging to the Pakistani Taliban. Pakistan says the Pakistani Taliban, or TTP, have become emboldened since the Afghan Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 as US and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout from the country after 20 years of war. Authorities say the insurgents, who are allied but separate from the Afghan Taliban, have found sanctuaries and have even been living openly in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover.
The TTP has especially stepped up its attacks on Pakistan since November last year when it unilaterally called off a tenuous peace deal that had been brokered by Kabul.
The Afghan government says it does not permit its soil to be used by armed groups against other nations.
At least 700 Afghans had been arrested since early September in Karachi alone as part of the latest crackdown — 10 times more than in August — and hundreds more in the other cities, according to official police figures.
Afghans say the arrests have been indiscriminate. They accuse police of extorting money and ignoring legal documents, while pointing to rising anti-Afghan sentiment as prolonged economic hardship burdens Pakistani households and tensions rise between Islamabad and Kabul’s new Taliban government.