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Friday, April 19, 2024  
09 Shawwal 1445  

Exodus of Afghan refugees begin after Pakistan sets Nov 1 deadline

FO denies impression of refugee crackdown aimed at particular nationality
In this file photo, Foreign Office spokesperson Mumaz Zahra Baloch addresses weekly press briefing. Radio Pakistan
In this file photo, Foreign Office spokesperson Mumaz Zahra Baloch addresses weekly press briefing. Radio Pakistan

At least 16 trucks, having 30 Afghan families aboard, arrived at the Torkham border in the Khyber district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Thursday, the Commissionerate Afghan Refugees said.

The returning Afghan families comprise 350 people, the authority said, adding that they would be allowed to return after legal formalities.

Pakistan recently set a deadline of November 1 for all illegal refugees to sell their properties and leave the country. After the deadline, all illegal journalists would be deported. Operations have begun rounding up Afghan refugees in many cities including Islamabad already.

Approximately 1.42 million – out of the total 4.4 million Afghan nationals – have proof of registration, according to the interior ministry. Pakistan hosts 0.85 million Afghan citizen card holders and 1.73 million illegal Afghan nationals.

According to the office, the exodus of refugees would increase till November 1.

Earlier in the day, Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch clarified that the ongoing operation against illegal refugees is not aimed at Afghan refugees or any other particular nationality.

Speaking at a press briefing at the FO on Thursday, Baloch said that the ongoing operation is against foreign nationals who do not have legal documents to justify their stay in the country.

She added that taking this action against illegal refugees is within Pakistan’s ‘sovereign domestic laws’, Radio Pakistan reported.

However, she clarified that Pakistan’s policy on 1.4 million Afghan refugees who are being hosted with ‘generosity’ has not changed and their repatriation is a ‘separate matter’. She added that Pakistan is continuously engaging with Afghanistan to create a favourable atmosphere for their return.

Baloch also refuted reports that transit trade with Afghanistan was being closed but said that trade facilities should not be misused.

Moreover, caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Jilani met with Afghan Acting FM Amir Khan Muttaqi in Tibet, China. He is the country to attend the third China Tibet Trans-Himalayan Forum in Tibet, China.

The FM reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to further strengthen bilateral ties with Afghanistan, the Foreign Office spokesperson said in a post on X. “Underscored that challenges confronting regional peace & stability be addressed in collaborative spirit thru collective strategies.”

Sources in Afghanistan told Aaj News that the interim Taliban government has set-up camps in Laalpur district for Afghan refugees where they would be welcomed.

The decision was taken on the orders of Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada. The government has also formed a committee comprising six different committees.

For the temporary camp, the government has sought the help of international organisations.

The government would bear the expense of families headed by women, sources said, adding that around 100,000 families have returned home over the past two years.

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Mumtaz Zahra Baloch

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