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EDITORIAL: Islamabad has ruled out any extension in the October 31 deadline for undocumented immigrants — almost all of them Afghans — to leave with Interim Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti announcing at a news conference that all foreign nationals illegally residing in Pakistan would be kept in ‘holding centres’ before deportation to their respective countries.

That may sound unseemly, but many illegally entering this country during the recent years have been linked to terrorism. Hence the Army Chief’s assertion at a recent event, “the safety and security of each Pakistani is of paramount importance which cannot be allowed to be compromised at any cost.”

Whilst a large number of undocumented Afghans were being rounded up all across the country, thousands of political activists, traders and tribesmen protested in Balochistan’s border town of Chaman against the new rule of allowing in only those with passports and valid visas, demanding restoration of the old border crossing system for families living on either side of the Pak-Afghan border.

On Thursday, Quetta Corps Commander Lt-Gen Asif Ghafoor accompanied by senior civilian officials attended a jirga with tribal elders, traders, and representatives of daily wage earners, and told them that as per previous regulations, people will still be allowed to cross the borders on the basis of national identity cards.

There seems to be some confusion, however, since he also assured the jirga that he would discuss the situation with the government. In the meantime, international community, too, has been expressing concern over deportations.

Yet the countries that had pledged to give refuge to Afghans who worked for them during the war left those people in a limbo for over two years. It is only now that Britain has started to bring some 3,000 or so Afghans to that country.

Those who assisted other Western coalition troops are still awaiting their turn. In a rather belated move, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has offered to support Pakistan in developing a mechanism to manage and register people in need of international protection.

That offer should be given sympathetic consideration in view of the fact that girls and women in the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan are barred from acquiring education. And all types of cultural activities, especially music, have been banned.

Most of the singers and musicians who came following Taliban’s return to power are reported to have obtained “token numbers” from the UNHCR. Letting them stay on should not be a problem. Severest retribution awaits those who opposed the Taliban.

They rightly fear that sending them back amounts to pronouncement of a death sentence. A way needs to be found to distinguish between those who need protection and those who don’t.

That may not be easy but doable if the international community voicing disapproval of repatriation of undocumented Afghans is ready to play a role in it.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

Comments

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Qasim Oct 31, 2023 05:57am
Hmm, one cannot help but draw parallels with this and what is happening in Israel. Using the excuse of terrorism the government is forcibly pushing out people who have been living for years here. I think a better way is to find a means to integrate refugees onto our society instead of just kicking them out.
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KU Oct 31, 2023 11:43am
We are not the only ones sending illegal immigrants back home, the US, EU, Turkey, Iran, and many other countries do this regularly. Afghans in our country are not refugees anymore, they need to go back to their country. BR only needs to survey the opinions of KPK residents, particularly Peshawar, to understand the difficulties they have posed in maintaining law and order in the province. We have hosted over 5 million Afghans for the last 30 years, and at the cost of local employment and businesses, not to mention the factual rise in the drug trade during these years.
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HashBrown® Oct 31, 2023 11:12pm
@Qasim, "Hmm, one cannot help but draw parallels with this and what is happening in Israel." Brother the two situations are worlds apart. Firstly, Afghans have a homeland - one that hasn't been stolen from them by force, the way Occupied Palestine was seized by Zionists. Secondly, acts of religious terrorism in Pakistan are NOTHING like the actions of Palestinians who suffer daily torment at the hands of their invaders and who just want some means of fighting back. Thirdly, Pakistan has full legal justification to repatriate all illegal overstayers, whatever their country of origin, whereas the horrific treatment of Palestinians is in routine breach of multiple human rights laws. I could go on and on, but in short, your comparison is utterly invalid.
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Fakhar Nov 01, 2023 03:01pm
Dictator zia ul haq put country in this mess of refugees from Afghanistan now it is pakistan armies job to rid the country of this maneess along with many other maneesses and frankinsteins they have created
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Az_Iz Nov 01, 2023 11:48pm
@HashBrown®, you are so correct, in that, Palestinians have been rendered stateless in their own lands. About 90 percent of the people in historic Palestine were Palestinians. Until the Zionists arrived, who killed thousands of Palestinians at point blank range and ethnically cleansed nearly half of them to create Jewish majority Israel. Although one can say, Afghan refugees should be granted asylum in Pakistan. Pakistan has given them refuge for decades. The people of Pakistan have been very generous.
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