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Pakistan sets up Afghan detention camps in Balochistan, Sindh as Af-Pak braces a humanitarian crisis

A file image of an Afghan family running across a dusty street in Herat (Image courtesy: United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan/Fraidoon Poya)

As an enraged Pakistan presses on with the deportation of Afghan refugees, it has set up detention camps in various parts of the country to hold ‘undocumented Afghan refugees’.

The issue of deportation of nearly 1.7 million Afghans, many of who have been living in Pakistan for nearly four decades from the times of the Soviet-Mujahideen battles in the eighties, when Pakistan’s ISI and American CIA funded the Mujahideen, has taken a new turn with the detention centres.

The Dawn reports that three such camps have been established in the border town of Chaman on the Af-Pak border in Balochistan. Intelligence and police officials will keep an eye on the detention centres and also the routes of deportation.

At a high-level meeting held by interim Balochistan chief minister Ali Mardan Domki with security forces, it was disclosed that undocumented Afghan migrants will be rounded up after the October 31 deadline and kept in the camps. The meeting decided to set up more camps for Afghan migrants as local authorities expect more Afghans to come in.

Meanwhile, the Sindh government too has set up detention centres for illegal Afghan immigrants. It has also finalised various government buildings as detention centres, says MM News. The Sindh government has made plans to deport the Afghans by bus or by ship.

Pakistan has given a deadline of October 31 to deport all illegal Afghan migrants. After garnering criticism from international agencies including UN organisations, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry clarified that only illegal migrants have been asked to leave.

The decision has been assailed by the powerful Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who said that action by the authorities is not just affecting illegal residents but also Afghans residing legally.

At a press conference in Peshawar on Sunday, he said that the heavy-handed approach by the government is deteriorating relations with neighbouring countries and offered to mediate between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It is believed that Pakistan has cracked down on Afghans after a serious downturn in relations with Kabul, which Islamabad alleges is supporting the terror group, Pakistan Taliban or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has launched deadly attacks against Pakistani security forces and in mosques. The TTP, earlier supported by Pakistan against Afghanistan’s democratic government, now wants to create a similar Sharia-based structure in Pakistan as well.

The move, considered to be a blackmail by Islamabad, has been criticised by Afghanistan’s Taliban government as well.