Interim Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani defended the government’s decision to deport all illegal immigrants, including Afghans, from the country on Thursday and termed the decision “in line with international practice”.
Jilani further said no other country allows illegal immigrants like Pakistan has in the past forty years.
“No country allows illegal people to live in their country whether it is Europe, whether it is countries in Asia, in our neighbourhood,” Jilani said in an interview with Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV on the sidelines of a forum in Tibet.
“So, accordingly this is in line with the international practice that we have taken this decision,” he added.
He added that Pakistan has been accommodating millions for the past four decades but now it is time for illegal refugees to return to their home country – especially since the situation in Afghanistan had “stabilised.”
“Whenever there was any problem, people would immigrate to Pakistan, take refuge in Pakistan. But now I think it has been more than 40 years, so the government of Pakistan has taken a decision,” Jilani said.
The minister further stated that the decision to evict aliens came after “a long time” of discussions. Jilani also called on international humanitarian agencies to help with the process.
The decades-long conflict in Afghanistan culminated around mid-2021, marked by the return of the Taliban to power as foreign forces led by the United States withdrew and the government supported by the US crumbled in the face of a determined Taliban assault.
On Thursday, the deportation of Afghan citizens living illegally in Pakistan kicked off as 16 trucks carrying 20 families reached the Torkham border.
Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti announced earlier in the week that all foreign nationals living illegally in the country, including millions of Afghans, have been given until November 1 to leave voluntarily or face deportation.
The measures, including the introduction of the “one document regime” for Afghanistan, were part of a raft of measures approved by the civil and military leadership to deal with rising terrorist incidents.
The apex committee of the National Action Plan (NAP) meeting presided over by caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar was held to discuss the prevailing security situation. The high-level huddle was attended by Army Chief General Asim Munir, cabinet ministers and other senior security officials.
In what seems to be a message for the interim Afghan government, Pakistan through a series of new measures has made it clear that “business as usual” won’t continue with the neighbouring country.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, the interior minister said the federal government decided to deport all illegal foreign nationals residing in Pakistan from November 1.
All foreigners living in Pakistan illegally have been given 28 days to leave the country or face eviction by force, he added.
Although the government did not mention any country by name, it is evident that the move is aimed at hundreds and thousands of Afghans living in Pakistan illegally. According to official estimates, as many as 1.1 million Afghans have been residing in the country illegally. Neither have they neither any documents nor any other legal means to stay in the country.
However, the ruling Taliban government of Afghanistan termed Islamabad’s decision to expel undocumented Afghan nationals as “unacceptable” and denied Afghan refugees’ involvement in the security issues faced by Pakistan.