More than 4 lakh Afghans return home following Pakistan's anti-migrant crackdown

More than 4 lakh Afghans return home following Pakistan's anti-migrant crackdown

Nov 20, 2023 - 18:30
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More than 4 lakh Afghans return home following Pakistan's anti-migrant crackdown

Following the ongoing crackdown on illegal foreigners in the country, more than 400,000 Afghans returned to their home country, Pakistani authorities said Monday.

The shift in Pakistan’s perspective on Afghanistan is not sudden as it marks the culmination of a gradual deterioration in the quality of their relations. Islamabad has consistently held the Afghan Taliban responsible for permitting its territory to be used by groups like the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) for cross-border activities within Pakistan.

Also, Islamabad accused the Afghan Taliban of providing operational support to these anti-Pakistan groups, linking this support to the recent surge in terror attacks targeting various security establishments across its tribal belt.

Zabihullah Mujahid, chief spokesperson of the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan, confirmed the number and told The Associated Press that the majority have been using the border crossings of Torkham and Spin Boldak to return home.

As part of a nationwide crackdown, authorities in Pakistan announced that the estimated 1.7 million Afghans residing in Pakistan without proper documents had to leave the country by October 31 or face arrest. However, Pakistani officials clarified that the 1.4 million Afghans registered as refugees need not worry, as the crackdown targeted only those without proper documentation.

During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, millions of Afghans sought refuge in Pakistan, with numbers increasing after the Taliban’s takeover in 2021.

Pakistan also implemented new measures requiring hundreds of thousands of residents in the southwestern border town of Chaman to obtain visas for cross-border travel, replacing their previous special permits. On Monday, a protest involving hundreds briefly disrupted traffic and the repatriation of some Afghans as they blocked a key road leading to the Chaman border.

Residents in Chaman have been protesting repeatedly, asking Pakistan to allow them to continue using the special permits for business purposes and to meet with relatives who live in the Afghan border city of Spin Boldak.

Since November 1, police in Pakistan have been going door-to-door to check migrants’ documentation. Pakistani officials had said before that the crackdown involves all foreigners in the country, but most of those affected are Afghan nationals.

The latest development comes days after the World Health Organization warned that about 1.3 million Afghans were expected to return to their country of origin from Pakistan despite the onset of cold weather. Such expulsions have drawn widespread criticism from international and domestic human rights groups.

The Taliban-led administration in Afghanistan said it was providing shelter and food to returnees.

With inputs from AP.

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