QUETTA: Pakistan has suggested the interim Afghanistan government establish a sub-consulate in Chaman, as efforts are underway to devise a mechanism for the issuance of an on-arrival visa to Afghan citizens at the border town on the basis of their identification documents.

The authorities concerned would also approach the federal government seeking the installation of a passport reader in the border town.

These issues were taken up during a high-level meeting chaired by the caretaker chief minister, Ali Mardan Domki, held in Chaman, which was attended by FC IG Major Gen Aamir Ajmal, Chief Secretary Shakeel Qadir Khan, Balochistan police chief Abdul Khaliq Sheikh, and others.

The meeting was informed at least 150 Afghan families were expelled over the past few days under an “effective mechanism” established in the border town.)

A monitoring committee has also been set up comprising representatives of police, Levies, and district administration, to oversee the repatriation process.

Three camps set up in border town to house undocumented immigrants

The meeting was informed at least three camps were being established in which undocumented migrants, who would be rounded up after the expiry of the Nov 1 deadline, would be kept before being deported to their home country.

“All required facilities have already been provided in camps and in view of increasing numbers of immigrants more camps would be set up in Chaman,” the moot was informed.

Tribal jirga

Speaking at a jirga, CM Domki said that the decision regarding the repatriation of refugees was final and would be applicable to all immigrants residing illegally in Pakistan.

Additional staff has been appointed at the Chaman Passport Office, he said, adding the office would remain open 24 hours a day. Additionally, a passport office would soon become operational in Qila Abdullah.

He said that the registration of traditional Afghan identity documents (e-tazkira) would be completed in two days, replacing it with passports and e-documents. A focal point has been established at the deputy commissioner’s office in Chaman to conduct immediate investigations into any cases of misconduct.

Mir Domki mentioned that the government was well aware of difficulties faced by the families living at the border, who may encounter temporary hardships, but a comprehensive action plan was being devised to resolve the matter. Additi­onally, they were also suggesting feasible measures regarding the restrictions on items coming under the Afghan trade.

‘Aim to become normal state’

Calling it a state policy, Balochistan caretaker information minister Jan Achakzai vowed that the expulsion of illegal immigrants was part of the country’s move to become a “normal state”.

Addressing a press conference at a local hotel, he claimed the government’s decision “to expel illegal immigrants would also attract foreign investment, as it would create a conducive atmosphere for international businesses looking to enter the local market”.

“Several countries are currently exploring investment opportunities in Pakistan,” the caretaker minister said.

“We have to turn ourselves into a normal state. And for that, we need to secure our borders, as no normal state can afford to have porous borders. We have to implement the passport regime and decide the citizenship status of people in the country.”

He claimed the government’s campaign was directed against “illegal aliens” and not targeted at any specific nation or ethnic group.

“These decisions will have multi-dimensional effects, as through this campaign, we will also target the hundi, which is damaging our economy and banking system,” he added.

APP adds: Pakistan only seeks to deport “illegal immigrants from its soil and will no longer tolerate border crossings without meeting legal requirements”, said caretaker information minister, Murtaza Solangi.

The minister said that Pakistan has hosted more refugees than any other country over the past four decades. He claimed that countries “cannot survive with soft borders, allowing undocumented individuals to reside freely and forge fake passports and identity cards”.

Imran Ayub in Karachi also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2023

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