ISLAMABAD: A senior official in Kabul on Wednesday criticized Pakistan’s decision to start expelling illegal immigrants, mostly Afghans, from next month amid mounting security concerns, saying that refugees from his country were not responsible for causing militant violence in Pakistani cities.
Pakistan has hosted a significant number of Afghan refugees for several decades, with their influx beginning in 1979 following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and continuing through various conflicts that afflicted the war-ravaged state.
Hundreds of thousands of Afghans also traveled to Pakistan since the US-led international forces left the neighboring country and the Taliban took over Kabul in 2021. While Pakistan hosts some 1.5 million registered refugees, more than a million others are estimated to be residing in the country unregistered.
Pakistan’s interim interior minister said on Tuesday Afghan nationals were involved in 14 out of 24 suicide bombings that took place in Pakistan since the beginning of this year, asking all foreigners residing illegally in the country to leave by the end of the month.
“The behavior of Pakistan against Afghan refugees is unacceptable,” Zabiullah Mujahid, Afghan government’s official spokesman, said in a social media post. “The Pakistani side should reconsider its plan.”
“Afghan refugees are not involved in Pakistan’s security problems,” he continued. “As long as they leave Pakistan voluntarily, that country should tolerate them.”
Pakistan witnessed a surge in extremist attacks, particularly in its two western provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, following the 2021 Taliban return to power in Kabul.
The recent spike in violence also owed to the breakdown of a fragile truce between the government and the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant network, whose leadership is said to be based in Afghanistan, last November.
Pakistan lost over 60 people in two suicide bombings that targeted a mosque and a religious congregation on Friday, prompting the government to ask all illegal immigrants to leave by November 1 or face forced expulsion.