Caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi said on Friday that former prime minister Imran Khan’s statement about the repatriation of Afghan refugees was aimed at “gaining the sympathy” of the interim Afghan government.
Last month, the caretaker government launched a nationwide campaign to deport undocumented foreign nationals, primarily targeting Afghans. Despite criticism from Afghanistan and international observers, the government maintains that the campaign wasn’t directed towards any specific ethnicity.
Over four million Afghans reside in Pakistan, with an estimated 1.7 million lacking proper documentation. Since the campaign’s inception, thousands of Afghans have returned home through the Torkham and Chaman border crossings.
On Thursday, Imran Khan — who is currently incarcerated in Adiala Jail —issued a statement on X (formerly Twitter), criticising the treatment allegedly being meted out to Afghan refugees.
The former PTI chief said that treating refugees with respect was a “national obligation” while also talking about the traditional and historical links between Pakistan and Afghanistan. He said Pakistan had accommodated Afghan refugees for close to four decades and the effects of decades of hospitality were being wasted due to a “deficient plan”.
The PTI chief said 1.5 million refugees were not that much of a burden on a population of 250 million.
Responding to a question about the former premier’s statement during a press conference in Quetta, Solangi said: “It seems to me, that an attempt is being made to create an environment to garner the sympathy of Afghanistan’s government […] and indirectly, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members sent by them and create such an atmosphere in the next elections that his party gains an advantage in a way over other political parties.”
The information minister said if this was so, then it would be most “unfortunate because the need is that all parties have equal security and opportunity in the elections”.
Solangi said it was necessary to ask the PTI chief and his aides under which agreement or without asking the Parliament, “thousands of TTP terrorists” were allowed to resettle in Pakistan before the end of the PTI government’s term.
He also questioned the authenticity of Imran’s post, saying that the facility to post on social media about anything was not being provided to the PTI chief. He asked whether the statement had indeed been posted by him.
“If this really is his opinion, I wish that he had also spoken about the difficulties of 250m Pakistanis instead of trying to represent the illegal Afghans in Pakistan,” he said.