• Achakzai says next govt ‘bound’ to follow policy
• UNHCR team postpones visit to Khyber after threat alert
• Fazl seeks bilateral commission to hammer out Pak-Afghan issues

PESHAWAR/KARACHI/ ISLAMABAD: As a UNHCR team postponed its visit to district Khyber due to a purported threat alert, Pakistan announced its plan to deport registered Afghan immigrants as well after the forced repatriation of undocumented immigrants, with Balochistan caretaker minister Jan Achakzai saying the policy was in reaction to militants using Afghanistan as a launching pad to foment terrorism in the country.

On the other hand, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman demanded the formation of a commission to deal with the issue of refugees, saying “unilateral decisions do not serve Pakistan or Afghanistan”.

At a press conference at the Karachi Press Club, the Balochistan caretaker information minister claimed the government would start the same campaign against those living with legal documents in the country in line with the “state’s decision”.

Though the caretakers lack the authority to make policy decisions, the minister claimed the deportation drive would not come to a halt after the elections due in February next year. “And no one should be mistaken. This is the decision of a ‘sovereign state’ to repatriate all illegal immigrants. So any political government comes to power after the elections, this process would continue. The new government would be bound to follow this policy,” he said.

The minister claimed terrorists were using the Afghan soil to target “our security forces and that is why we have decided to send illegal immigrants to their home countries”.

He addclaimed six terrorists killed in Zhob last week were Afghan nationals. “With the new [Taliban] government set-up taking charge in Afghanistan two years ago, the incidents of terrorism in Pakistan have increased,” he said.

“The Balochistan government has so far blocked some 100,000 fake Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) in two districts of the province. Action would also be taken against officials found responsible for the issuance of fake CNICs to the illegal immigrants.”

Similarly, he said, some 20,000 fake CNICs had reportedly been blocked in Sindh.

“The FIA is fully collaborating with the provincial government in tracing out the whereabouts of illegal immigrants. So far, 80,000 illegal Afghan immigrants have been sent back from Balochistan and the process of deportation would be accelerated in coming days,” added Mr Achakzai.

‘Mishandling’

Meanwhile, talking to media in Islamabad, the JUI-F chief said Afghan refugees will have to ultimately leave Pakistan, but the “issue is being mishandled”.

“There should be a bilateral commission to discuss and resolve the issue between both countries.”

Mr Rehman said the interim Afghan government should have been taken on board before sending refugees back to their homeland.

In a reference to the spike in terror attacks after the Afghan Taliban’s rise to power, the JUI-F chief said as per his knowledge, the government in Kabul declared that cross-border attacks are not ‘jihad’.

“Afghan government got a fatwa (decree) from their religious leaders in this regard as well,” he added.

UNHCR visit cancelled

Officials of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) cancelled a visit to Khyber district on Thursday in light of the threat a possible attack on government installations and other soft targets.

Sources said the interior ministry issued the alert and requested officials to notify the UNHCR team so that they could postpone the visit.

“Yes, a visit was scheduled for Thursday but it was cancelled due to the threat alert,” an official, involved in processing ‘illegal’ Afghan nationals’ for their repatriation to Afghanistan, told Dawn.

An official version from the UNHCR, on cancelling the scheduled visit, could not be obtained despite repeated attempts.

Repatriation continues

Meanwhile, voluntary repatriation of illegal Afghan nationals to their homeland continued on Thursday — nine days after the expiry of the deadline for voluntary repatriation on Oct 31.

On Thursday, 3,035 undocumented immigrants, including 785 men, 747 women, 1,468 children and 35 deportees, left the country for Afghanistan via Torkham border crossing.

In addition, 3,056 individuals departed for Afghanistan via Angoor Adda border crossing in South Waziristan.

As many as 197,652 immigrants — 14,683 families comprising 55,394 men, 42,921 women, and 98,098 children — have so far left for Afghanistan via KP borders since September 17.

Official documents read that 1,207 people were also deported.

Published in Dawn, November 10th, 2023

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