Teams formed to identify, locate properties of Afghan nationals

Published October 11, 2023
UNHCR and IOM warned that Afghanistan is experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis with several human rights challenges, particularly for women and girls.—Reuters / file
UNHCR and IOM warned that Afghanistan is experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis with several human rights challenges, particularly for women and girls.—Reuters / file

ISLAMABAD: Separate teams of the capital police and local administration have been constituted to identify and locate properties owned by Afghan nationals, compile records and ascertain their value.

However, when Deputy Commissioner Irfan Nawaz Memon was contacted, he denied that any team had been established for the purpose.

“No such teams had been formed by the local administration,” Mr Memon said.

According to sources in the police and local administration, the teams had been tasked with identifying and locating properties and businesses owned by Afghans whether they had a legal refugee status or were ‘illegal’ immigrants.

The teams would make use of revenue record and also physically inspect properties and businesses, the sources said, adding that documents submitted to purchase them would also be scrutinised.

Details to be submitted to task force set up in interior ministry; properties, businesses acquired through forged documents to be confiscated

On October 3, the Apex Committee on the National Action Plan, which was presided over by caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar, resolved to expel illegal foreign nationals and take strict action against their properties and businesses. A task force was also constituted to scrutinise fake identity cards issued to foreign nationals as well as their properties and businesses.

Pakistan is not a signatory to the 1951 Geneva Convention, but had welcomed Afghan refugees on humanitarian grounds, the sources said, adding that even refugees having proper registration and documents could not buy properties.

They were required to stay in official refugee camps out of which 44 were located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, nine were in Balochistan and one in Punjab. But, instead of remaining in camps, they spread to urban areas of Sindh as well as Islamabad, the sources added.

Besides, refugees and immigrants, who crossed the border illegally, acquired forged computerised national identity cards (CNICs) and bought properties in different cities, including Islamabad, the sources said, adding that they also purchased and established businesses in the same way or through partnership with locals.

After identifying the properties, the teams would submit details to the task force, which had been set up in the interior ministry under the supervision of the interior minister and comprising officials of intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Those properties and businesses bought and established on forged documents would be confiscated.

They further said the capital police’s intelligence unit known as Special Branch and Counter-Terrorism Department would assist the teams to identify and locate the properties and businesses.

Earlier, the capital police gave a deadline of 48 hours to Afghans to shift to refugee camps, including the one in I-12 sector.

The civic authority had demolished two illegal settlements of Afghans - one in Margalla Town and the other in H-9 sector. On Tuesday, another operation was conducted in I-12/2 settlement where 50 houses were bulldozed. The sources said after the given deadline, other illegal settlements of Afghans would also be razed.

Another officer said e-tagging of foreigners living in the capital legally and with proper traveling documents had been completed and a database was compiled by a unit of the Counter-Terrorism Department.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of States and Frontier Region’s Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees, in a letter to the interior minister, home secretaries, inspectors general of police in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, chief commissioner Islamabad and deputy director State Bank of Pakistan, banking policy and regulations department, stated that Afghan refugees with valid proof of registration cards and Afghan citizen cards could temporarily reside in Pakistan and only be repatriated on voluntary basis. It further said instructions had already been passed to all stakeholders concerned, including the provincial governments.

The letter went on to say that harassing, arresting and detaining registered Afghan refugees would adversely affect Pakistan’s image and goodwill earned over the last 43 years.

Therefore, it was requested to kindly issue instructions to all relevant departments and agencies to ensure that no harassment or undue adverse action was taken against registered Afghan refugees holding proof of registration cards and holders of Afghan citizen cards issued by Nadra till a decision of the federal cabinet, it added.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2023

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