Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti on Tuesday announced a November 1 deadline for illegal immigrants in the country to leave Pakistan, otherwise, all law enforcement agencies would deport them.
The interior minister was addressing a press conference in Islamabad and briefing the media on the details of the decisions taken during a meeting of the apex committee on the National Action Plan at the Prime Minister’s House.
The army chief, federal ministers, provincial chief ministers and heads of all civil and military agencies were present at the meeting.
“The most important thing that was decided was that the welfare and security of a Pakistani are most important for us over any country or its policy. The first decision taken is about our illegal immigrants who are living in Pakistan through illegal means.
“We have given them a deadline of Nov 1 to willingly return to their countries and if they don’t, all law enforcement agencies (LEAs) of the state and provinces will deport them.”
Bugti said all stakeholders were “taken in the loop” for the decision
Separately, interim Information Minister Murtaza Solangi said illegal immigrants now had 28 days to leave Pakistan.
Bugti said the same deadline would apply for entry into Pakistan without a passport or visa, adding that people would not be able to enter the country without those documents after Nov 1.
He said entry without the aforementioned documents was not allowed in any other country of the world. Bugti said those arriving with legal documents and who formally entered the tax net would be promoted.
He added that there were currently 1.73 million unregistered illegal Afghans living in the country.
The interior minister added that e-tazkiras (electronic Afghan identity cards) would be accepted from October 10-31 and afterwards the abovementioned passport and visa policy would apply.
Furthermore, he said Nov 1 onwards an operation would kick off, by a task force already created in the interior ministry, that would target illegal properties and businesses owned by illegal immigrants or that were being run in collaboration with Pakistanis.
“Our intelligence agencies and LEAs will find them and the authorities will seize those properties and businesses. The Pakistanis involved in this facilitation will be sentenced as per the law.”
He added that the task force would also initiate proceedings to crack down on illegal identity cards and passports since they were used for nefarious means.
Bugti said DNA testing would also be utilised to detect such people who were Pakistani identity cardholders despite not being Pakistani.
He said a universal helpline number and a web portal were also being launched for people to come forward as anonymous informants to give information about illegal ID cards, illegal immigrants and other illegal practices such as smuggling and hoarding.
The interior minister added that reward money would be set as well under the informant scheme.
Bugti also talked about the establishment of joint checkposts to curb smuggling and hoarding, adding that crackdowns on illicit money transfers and power theft would also be ramped up. Similarly, he said strict measures were also going to be taken against narcotics.
The interior minister said the monopoly of violence belonged to the state and it would allow no other entity to exercise it whether it was done so under political violence, militancy, ethnicity, religion or under any other garb.
State media had reported a day ago that the caretaker government has decided to evict 1.1m foreigners living illegally in Pakistan because of their involvement in funding and facilitating terrorists and other illegal activities.
The development comes as the most recent in the state’s crackdown on Afghan refugees.
September has seen an alarming rise in the rounding up and detention of Afghan refugees. The government cites illegal immigration and rising crime as the reasons behind the crackdown.
Around 1.3m Afghans are registered refugees and 880,000 more have legal status to remain in Pakistan, according to the latest United Nations figures.
Police and politicians have said a recent round-up targets only those without legal status and is in response to rising crime and poor regulation of immigration that is straining resources. Meanwhile, Afghans say the arrests have been indiscriminate.
In a statement posted on X, Afghanistan’s embassy said more than 1,000 Afghans were detained in the past two weeks — half of them despite having a legal right to be in Pakistan.
“Despite the repeated promises of the Pakistan authorities, the arrest and harassment of Afghan refugees by the police in Pakistan continues,” it said.
Reacting to the interior minister’s announcement today, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Qaisar Khan Afridi told Turkish news outlet Anadolu Agency that “any refugee return must be voluntary and without any pressure to ensure protection for those seeking safety.”
“We have seen disconcerting press reports about a plan to deport undocumented Afghans and we are seeking clarity from our government partners,” he was quoted as saying by the report.
Afridi urged the government, which he said was “generously hosting refugees for more than 40 years”, to institute a mechanism to ensure that Afghans with international protection were not deported.
He pointed out that it must be kept in mind that those fleeing persecution often did not have the necessary documents and travel permissions.
Afridi asserted that the UNHCR was ready to support the government in developing a mechanism to manage and register people in need of international protection on its territory and respond to “particular vulnerabilities”.
“Pakistan has remained a generous refugee host for decades. This role has been acknowledged globally but more needs to be done to match its generosity,” he was quoted as saying.
Attacks by Afghan nationals
To a question, the interior minister said there were 24 suicide attacks till now since January with “14 bombings carried out by Afghan nationals” such as the Peshawar Police Lines blast, Qilla Saifullah operation, Zhob Cantt attack and last week’s attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Hangu.
He said the religious decree by Afghan Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada warning Taliban members against carrying out attacks abroad was not being adhered to and expressed hope that “there should be implementation on it in letter and spirit.”
He said there was no difference in opinion that “there are attacks on us from Afghanistan and Afghan nationals are involved in those attacks. We have evidence present for that,” adding that the Foreign Office was taking up the matter with Afghan authorities.
Bugti urged that there was a need to strengthen counter-terrorism departments. “We have the capacity and capability present to cover this war of terrorism and state of lawlessness which has been created,” he added.
Nadra chairman’s appointment
On the appointment of Lieutenant General Munir Afsar as the new chairman of the National Database and Registration Authority, he said the institution was related to national security and the data it possessed was very important.
He said the appointment was made after considering the issue of national security and pointed out the new chairman’s “competency and vast experience” related to information technology and the digital space.
“I think his arrival was very important for national security and the experience of both national security and IT will correct Nadra. The black sheep will not only be identified but brought to justice and sentenced.”
Additional input from AFP.