• E-tazkira to be accepted until Oct 31; only those with valid passports, visas will be allowed in from Nov 1
• Bugti says authorities will use DNA testing to identify ‘illegal’ citizens
• Apex committee decides to extend scope of operation against hoarding, power theft
• Task force constituted to scrutinise ‘fake ID cards’

ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday gave an ultimatum to all undocumented immigrants, including Afghan nationals, to leave Pakistan by October 31, or risk imprisonment and deportation to their respective countries.

The decision to expel undocumented foreigners was taken during a meeting of the apex committee of the National Action Plan, chaired by the caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar.

Following the meeting, caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi tweeted: “All illegal immigrants have 28 days to leave Pakistan.”

Army chief Gen Asim Munir, federal ministers, chief ministers and the heads of civil and military law enforcement agencies participated in the meeting.

The huddle also decided to take strict action against the businesses and properties owned by illegal immigrants, while a taskforce has been constituted to scrutinise “fake identity cards illegally issued to foreign nationals as well as their businesses and properties”.

Valid visa, passport

The committee also decided that movement across the border would be subject to passports and visas, while electronic Afghan identity cards (or e-tazkiras) would only be accepted until Oct 31.

It was also decided to widen the scope of ongoing action against illegal activities, such as smuggling, hoarding, money laundering, and power theft, said a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

The forum reiterated that the use of force was only the state’s mandate and there was no room for armed political organisations or groups and those involved in such activities would be dealt with strictly. In the meeting, it was highlighted that the state would never allow anyone to interpret religion just to serve their political interests.

The committee stressed that those spreading propaganda and disinformation, should be dealt with strictly under cyber laws.

The participants were informed that technical procedures were being devised for the awareness and implementation of the laws, which were being promulgated keeping in view the observance of the law and the convenience of the people.

‘1.73m Afghans in Pakistan’

Following the meeting, Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti told reporters at least “1.73 million unregistered Afghans” were currently living in the country. Mr Bugti claimed out of 24 suicide attacks in Pakistan since January this year, 14 suicide bombers were Afghan nationals.

Mr Bugti added that people would not be able to enter the country without valid travel documents after Nov 1. He said entry without these documents was not permissible in any other country of the world, adding that those arriving with legal documents and who formally entered the tax net would be facilitated.

The caretaker minister added that e-tazkiras would be accepted from October 10-31 and afterwards the above mentioned passport and visa policy would apply.

After the passage of the Nov 1 deadline, the authorities would kickstart an operation targeting illegal properties and businesses owned by immigrants or those being run in collaboration with Pakistani nationals.

“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 said that the taskforce would also crack down on “illegal identity cards and passports since they were used for nefarious purpose”.

Helpline for whistleblowers

He said a universal helpline number and a web portal were also being launched for people to give information about illegal ID cards, illegal immigrants and other illegal practices such as smuggling and hoarding. The interior minister said that reward money would be offered to informants under the scheme.

On the appointment of Lt Gen Munir Afsar as the new chairman of Nadra, he said the appointment was made after considering the issue of “national security” and pointed to the new chairman’s “competency and vast experience” related to information technology and the digital space.

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2023

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