PESHAWAR, April 25: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government here on Wednesday set a one-month deadline for illegal Afghan nationals to leave the province or face legal action.

District Coordination Officer Siraj Ahmad Khan told a press conference that illegal Afghan nationals should leave the province by May 25 otherwise they would be treated according to the law of the land.

“Police will arrest illegal Afghan nationals under 14 Foreign Act and they will be deported to their country after May 25,” said Mr Khan, who was accompanied by Commissioner for Afghan Refugees Zaheerul Islam.

He said that the government had decided to expel illegal Afghan nationals from the province and action would be started from Peshawar where approximately 400,000 undocumented Afghans were residing.

“Peshawar has been overburdened because of influx of internally displaced persons and prolonged presence of Afghans,” the DCO said.

He added that illegal Afghan nationals were involved in criminal activities.

He said that illegal Afghans had overburdened Peshawar’s infrastructure and had also role in lawlessness.

Mr Khan said that registered Afghan refugees possessing valid Proof of Registration (PoR) cards had been exempted till December 2012.

The federal government had issued PoR cards to 1.7 million refugees, residing in 42 camps and in urban areas.

Pakistan, sheltering the largest refugee population since early 1980s, Afghanistan and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had signed a tripartite agreement to legalise stay of registered Afghans till December next.

The government has been issuing such deadlines to illegal Afghans since 2001, but did not implement the same. However, police had launched a crackdown against Afghan prayer leaders some time ago and deported many of them.

According to officials, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is hosting 1.2 million Afghans including 400,000 illegal. A large number of Afghan nationals has been running different businesses in the province.

The official said that the government was very serious about the issue. Police would arrest every illegal Afghan national and would deport him after legal process, he added.

The DCO said that government had set up committees in urban and semi-urban areas of the province to collect data about the presence of undocumented Afghan nationals. He said that committees were conducting surveys in refugee hosting areas that would be shared with the departments concerned.

He said that that city district government had imposed Section 144 in Peshawar and bounded property dealers and owners not to rent out houses to illegal Afghans.

He said that dealers would provide particulars of the Afghan tenants to the area police station before renting out a house to the family.

To curb cross-border movement of illegal Afghans, the DCO said, political administrations of the tribal agencies concerned in Fata had been directed to take appropriate measures.

To a question, he said that police and other agencies would also collect data of Afghan students studying in religious seminaries and other educational institutions in the province.

He said that Afghan students having legal status could continue their education and police would not harass them.

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