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Afghan exodus gathers steam as countdown to deport ‘aliens’ from Pakistan begins

The Pakistani exit notice is for around 17 lakh Afghans.

The announced crisis has finally arrived in the camps of Afghan refugees languishing in Pakistan for years. Irked over Afghan Taliban government’s non-cooperation in curbing anti-Pakistan militancy and the country’s mounting economic woes, Islamabad is set to deport “aliens” back to their homeland after November 1 (tomorrow) which is the deadline for them to voluntarily leave Pakistani soil.

The Pakistani exit notice is for around 17 lakh Afghans.

Meanwhile, the Dawn reported that the exodus has already begun, with around 100,000 leaving Pakistan with whatever they had on trucks, lorries and other carriers from the Torkham and Chaman border crossings over the past month.

Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti warned of strict action if any Pakistanis were found providing shelter to undocumented immigrants, including Afghans, after today (Tuesday).

At a press conference, he categorically said that any Pakistani national who rented out property to illegal immigrants would be considered a partner in the crime.

The Foreign Office of Pakistan also made it clear on Monday that the decision to deport illegal foreigners residing in Pakistan was in line with the sovereign domestic laws and international principles.

The issue of sending back Afghan refugees who are in Pakistan since 1980’s and 2000’s has invited ire of human rights organisations and even Pakistan could face diplomatic implications.

‘Holding Centres” have been set up in various Pakistani cities to house refugees that will be deported after checking their documents.

On Monday, an official privy to the developments said nobody was being taken to the ‘holding’ areas as the deadline has yet to expire and the process of shifting illegal immigrants to the holding areas would start from tomorrow (Wednesday).

“But, even if the deadline expires and somebody wants to leave voluntarily, nobody will bother them. But those who still stay here, will be arrested by the police and charged for illegally staying in Pakistan,” another official said, as quoted by the Dawn.

‘Mistreatment of Migrants’

Afghan refugees have alleged gross mistreatment at the hands of Pakistan authorities in recent months. The Afghan Refugee Council in Pakistan has said that Pakistan’s mistreatment of migrants is increasing with each passing day. The council added that Afghan refugees are being detained and deported from their homes and shops.

“The migrants were returned from their homes and shops where they had businesses and closed their shops. There is no one to give sanctuary to them. “The government of Pakistan is doing this very seriously,” said Siyal Mohammad Wesal, a member of Afghan Refugees Council in Pakistan, while talking to the Tolo News.

“The Pakistani police have mistreated Afghan refugees, and the government has ordered shops to be evacuated and even ordered that homes should not be provided to Afghan migrants,” Hadisa, an Afghan migrant in Pakistan, told Tolo News.

The chargé d’affaires of Afghanistan Permanent Mission to the United Nations Naseer Faiq said in his speech to the UN General Assembly that Afghan migrants are faced with various challenges. He fell short of naming Pakistan, but the import of his concern was targeted to highlight the plight of Afghans in Pakistan and Iran, the two countries which are sheltering the major chunk of Afghans who have fled their homes because of war and conflict.