Pakistan has decided to send back more than 1.1 million Afghan refugees, as reported by Express Tribune. This comes as tensions simmer between the two neighboring countries.
According to reports, the interim federal government has approved the decision, but official confirmation is still pending. Sarfraz Bugti, the Caretaker Interior Minister, has not yet commented on the matter.
Of the refugees, 400,000 Afghans reportedly arrived in Pakistan after the Afghan Taliban’s return to power in August 2021. Another 700,000 have been identified as living in the country without legal permission for a longer period.
These refugees are said to lack the necessary documents, like visas, which would allow them to stay in the country. Many have been involved in criminal or anti-state activities, further accelerating the decision to deport them.
For context, Pakistan has been a haven for Afghan refugees for several decades. At one peak moment, a massive five million Afghans were living in Pakistan. Presently, estimates claim close to four million Afghan refugees residing in the country, but only a fraction possess valid refugee cards.
The move to repatriate these refugees is also seen against the backdrop of ongoing issues between Pakistan and Afghanistan, especially over the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group.
Some analysts, as cited by Express Tribune, speculate that Pakistan’s urgent actions might be influenced by the Afghan Taliban’s hesitancy to act against the TTP. Just last week, a Pakistani delegation, led by special envoy Ambassador Asif Durrani, went to Kabul urging the Taliban government to address the TTP threat.
While the Afghan Taliban indicated they might take steps, Pakistani officials remain cautious given past promises that have not been fulfilled.
This decision by Pakistan will likely not go unnoticed. Responses are expected from the Afghan Taliban government and particularly the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), which generally opposes the forced return of refugees.
Via Express Tribune