IN the wake of May 9 political violence across the country, there has been a debate on the presence of Afghan nationals who have been in Pakistan illegally for a long time. Indeed, many of them have been here for the last several decades after they had crossed into Pakistan during the protracted war against the erstwhile Soviet Union. The influx is continuing even today.
I would like to share some extremely disturbing details on this count, which should be of interest to the security mechanism. On May 2, at 7pm, I started my travel on a bus from Kuchlak to Islamabad after spending Eid holidays to attend my university classes.
On the way, I noticed that the bus conductor was helping some people to memorise their names and the area they belonged to. These people could not read Urdu, while their names and details written on their CNICs were in Urdu. They were Afghan citizens travelling to Islamabad having fake CNICs provided by the bus crew to deceive security officials at various checkposts on the way to Islamabad.
We came across three checkposts where CNICs of the passengers were checked by security officials, but no one was caught. I believe security officials were successfully deceived and they were not bribed, as was being claimed by the bus crew.
Being a local of Balochistan and an ethnic Pashtun, for me it was not a matter of surprise that these Afghans were travelling to Islamabad without CNICs. Whenever I travel to Islamabad, I generally come across two or three Afghans travelling for some work, and most of them are generally those who have migrated about 20-30 years ago. They have adapted rather well to Pakistani culture and some of them were even born here.
What was surprising this time was that the bus was almost full of Afghan citizens, and I could see about 15-20 of them. Each one was given a fake CNIC, and, according to the conductor, each CNIC was original and had been issued by the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra). Each CNIC, as per his claim, had cost them Rs100,000.
These Afghans were charged three to five times more than the regular passengers. When one of the Afghans lost his CNIC as the conductor was collecting them back at the end of the journey, he was threatened directly that he would be handed over to police on some false allegation of, say, theft. The lost CNIC, however, was found and the matter was resolved.
Moreover, the Afghans I am talking about here were clearly not those who have been living in Pakistan. They were raw tribals who had apparently come to Pakistan only recently. Talking among themselves, they had nationalistic political ideology, liberal social thoughts, and had strong opposition to Pakistan’s role in the establishment of Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
No doubt Afghan citizens can be found everywhere in Pakistan, but they should better be kept away from the capital unless they meet the legal requirements. It is vital to have them registered through some fool-proof process because people with no name, identity, passport or immigration card, coming to the federal capital in such large numbers surely represent a security threat to Pakistan and will deteriorate the security situation in Islamabad.
Precautionary measures should be taken right now before it is too late. The Afghans who have recently migrated to Pakistan illegally are to some extent financially more stable than those who have been living in Pakistan for long. It is for this reason that these undocumented Afghans are ready to spend any amount of money to achieve their objectives in a country like Pakistan where corruption is rampant and anything is possible for them, and for just about anyone, to achieve.
Every human must be welcomed in every part of the land, but with due legal process and registration. This is the only way to ensure the security of the people and the entire country.
Name withheld on request
Place withheld on request
Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2023