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Pakistan: we are fighting illegal migration, not any nationality

Pakistan‘s interim government on Tuesday said all illegal migrants, including Afghan nationals, had to leave the country by 1 November. Otherwise, they will be deported or detained by police.

Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban movement has condemned Pakistan’s decision to expel its undocumented citizens. They called it “unacceptable”. Islamabad officials clarified Thursday that its operation against illegal immigrants did not target any particular nationality. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said:

“The Pakistani side should reconsider its plan. Afghan refugees are not involved in Pakistan’s security problems. As long as they leave Pakistan voluntarily, that country should tolerate them.”

Pakistan’s Interim Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Geelani met his Afghan counterpart Amir Khan Muttaki in Tibet where they attended the third Trans-Himalayan Forum for International Cooperation.

A Foreign Office statement said Foreign Minister Geelani reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to further strengthen bilateral ties with Afghanistan. He also emphasised that challenges threatening regional peace and stability should be addressed in a “spirit of cooperation through collective strategies”. The statement informed:

“The FM reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to further strengthen bilateral ties with Afghanistan. (He) underscored that challenges confronting regional peace and stability be addressed in collaborative spirit through collective strategies.”

Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said at a Foreign Office briefing that the arrangements being made include repatriation of people who remained in Pakistan either after their visa expired or did not have “valid” documents to stay in the country. She said:

“Pakistan is within parameters of its sovereign domestic laws to take action in this context.”

Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said the ongoing operation does not concern the 1.4 million Afghan refugees that Pakistan has been hosting for decades “despite its cramped economic situation”.

The spokeswoman said Pakistan’s national policy on Afghan refugees remained unchanged and their return to their homeland was a separate issue that Islamabad continued to discuss with Afghanistan. Baloch emphasised that Pakistan had been very clear in articulating its concerns about the use of Afghan territory for terrorism. She said:

“Islamabad, while believing in diplomacy and dialogue, continues engagement with Kabul to fight the threat.”

The Foreign Office also denied media reports that Pakistan had closed transit trade with Afghanistan, saying trade was continuing but the country would not allow abuse of existing trade facilities.

Pakistan’s Interim Interior Minister Sarfaraz Bugti said on Tuesday that there were 1.73 million unregistered illegal Afghans living in the country. Since January, 14 out of 24 suicide attacks in Pakistan had been carried out by Afghans.

More than 700 Afghans have been arrested in Karachi since the beginning of September, while hundreds more have been arrested in other cities. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police Chief Akhtar Hayat Gandapur told media on Thursday that of the total number of suicide attacks in the province, “75 per cent of the terrorists were Afghan nationals”. He said:

“The fingerprints of the bombers, obtained and maintained, show the same ratio. The attackers found involved in the recent Ali Masjid, Bajaur, Hangu, and police lines bombings were all Afghans.The KPK police have also arrested Afghans involved in money extortion in the province. This year, 76 cases of money extortion have been reported, of which 49 have been traced.”

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