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South Asia

Afghan Taliban Says Islamabad's Ultimatum to Undocumented Immigrants ‘Unacceptable’

Pakistan's decision to expel undocumented immigrants came amid claims it made that a majority of suicide bombings in the country this year were carried out by Afghan nationals.

New Delhi: A day after Pakistan ordered all undocumented immigrants – a group which it has said includes 1.7 million Afghans – to leave the country by November 1, the Afghan Taliban called this decision “unacceptable”.

“The behaviour of Pakistan against Afghan refugees is unacceptable. The Pakistani side should reconsider its plan,” Afghan Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said on X (formerly Twitter) on Wednesday (October 4).

Pakistan’s decision to expel undocumented immigrants came amid claims it made that a majority of suicide bombings in the country this year were carried out by Afghan nationals.

“There are no two opinions that we are attacked from within Afghanistan and Afghan nationals are involved in attacks on us … We have evidence,” Reuters quoted Pakistan’s interior minister Sarfraz Bugti as saying.

But Mujahid denied the charge, saying that “Afghan refugees are not involved in Pakistan’s security problems”.

“As long as they leave Pakistan voluntarily, that country should tolerate them.”

Interior minister Bugti also said that those undocumented immigrants who did not leave by the November 1 deadline would be deported.

“If they do not go … then all the law enforcement agencies in the provinces or federal government will be utilised to deport them,” Bugti told reporters in Islamabad, adding that after the deadline, the remaining immigrants’ properties and businesses will be confiscated.

He announced that from November 1, Afghans would only be able to enter the country with valid passports and visas. Until now a national identity card has sufficed.

The Afghan Taliban swiftly took over the country in August 2021 following the US withdrawal. Some 600,000 Afghans have arrived in Pakistan since then. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Voice of America News. Public domain.

Pakistani state-run news agency APP also cited an unknown government source going even further and saying, “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”.

Afghanistan’s embassy in Islamabad said on X on Tuesday (October 3) that more than 1,000 Afghans have been detained in Pakistan in the last two weeks, despite half of them having a legal right to be in the country, Pakistani daily Dawn reported.

The UN has opposed Pakistan’s deadline, with a spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Refugees saying that any refugee return must be “voluntary and without any pressure”.

“We have seen disconcerting press reports about a plan to deport undocumented Afghans and we are seeking clarity from our government partners,” spokesperson Qaisar Khan Afridi was quoted as saying by Anadolu Agency.

Afridi continued to say that “we must also keep in mind that those fleeing persecution often do not have the necessary documents and travel permissions.”

According to the latest UN figures reviewed by Dawn, around 1.3 million Afghans are registered refugees in Pakistan and 880,000 more have legal status to remain.

The increasingly harsh rhetoric in Pakistan against Afghan refugees comes after an uptick in violence by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – a group with links to the hardline Taliban Sunni militants who retook power in Afghanistan two years ago.

The TTP has said it wants to overthrow Pakistan’s government and rule with its strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Millions of Afghans have entered Pakistan over the years, following successive wars and authoritarian regimes. Some 600,000 arrived since August 2021.

Many Afghans are on waiting lists to get Pakistani visas, but the process can take months.

With inputs from DW.