A family whose men were allegedly arrested by the police, as part of crackdown on illegal Afghan refugees, show the temporary registration tokens for Afghan refugees as they demand the authorities to release them, in Quetta, Pakistan, 17 October 2023. EFE/EPA/JAMAL TARAQAI

Pakistan army to facilitate deportation of illegal foreigners after deadline expires

Islamabad, Oct 17 (EFE).- Pakistan’s powerful military on Tuesday announced it would support and facilitate the deportation of all foreigners living illegally in the country after the deadline given to them to leave expires on Nov. 1.

The decision was taken during a meeting of the top military commanders chaired by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Syed Asim Munir at the headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

Earlier in the month, the federal government gave an ultimatum to all unregistered foreign immigrants, including an estimated 1.73 million Afghan nationals, to leave Pakistan by Oct. 31 or face expulsion from the country.

According to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the armed forces, the military announced its support for the government’s decision.

“Forum resolved to fully support the Federal Government’s decision to repatriate and deport all illegal foreigners from 1st November 2023 onwards,” ISPR said in a statement after the meeting.

After the deadline passes, the military is expected to play a key role in deporting illegally residing foreigners, most of whom are Afghan nationals.

Pakistan has two main border crossing points with Afghanistan, namely Torkham in the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Chaman in the south-western Balochistan province.

ISPR further said in the statement that the army will facilitate the deportation of illegally residing aliens.

“COAS directed all concerned to support and facilitate smooth, respectable and safe repatriation / deportation of all illegal foreigners,” the statement added.

An estimated 4.4 million registered and unregistered Afghans have been living in Pakistan since they fled their country after the then-Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have deteriorated after the fall of Kabul in August 2021.

Pakistan claims that Afghan soil is being used by the Pakistani Taliban or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan to carry out attacks in the country.

It has also claimed that Afghan nationals have been found involved in terror activities in Pakistan.

However, security experts have raised questions on the possible mass deportation of Afghans, especially after they have lived in Pakistan for decades.

The UN’s refugee and migration agencies have also appealed to Islamabad to continue protecting those who sought refuge in the country and who could be “at imminent risk if forced to return.”

Pakistan’s deportation plans could have “serious implications” for all who have been forced to leave the country and may face serious protection risks upon their return, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the International Organization for Migration had said in a joint statement. EFE