KABUL – In a significant move driven by ongoing tensions with Afghanistan, Pakistan’s caretaker government has given the green light to repatriate approximately 1.1 million Afghan refugees residing in the country illegally. Sources have revealed that the decision was made during a recent meeting of the caretaker cabinet in Islamabad.
The decision comes amidst concerns about the porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which has allowed for the movement of individuals, including elements with ties to terrorism, from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Notably, this move follows a recent influx of around 600,000 Afghans into Pakistan following the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, with roughly 400,000 of them living in Pakistan illegally. The total number of Afghan refugees in Pakistan has been significantly reduced from its peak, but the crackdown on illegal refugees has intensified due to escalating tensions between the two nations, primarily regarding the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
While Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghan refugees over the years, the situation has changed, with only a fraction of them possessing valid refugee cards. The decision to repatriate illegal Afghan refugees has implications not only for relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan but also for international organizations like the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), which opposes forced repatriation policies.
It remains to be seen how the Afghan Taliban government, which has been informed of Pakistan’s decision, will respond. Pakistani officials have sought the Taliban’s cooperation in addressing the TTP threat, but there are doubts about the Taliban’s commitment to taking action against the group. The situation is expected to develop further, potentially impacting the dynamics between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the international community.