Interim Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti on Friday warned foreigners living in Pakistan against participating in any political activities ahead of the upcoming general elections, stressing only Pakistanis are allowed to engage in the country’s political process.
“People involved in political activities are being deported,” he told media in Islamabad. “Whether it be Afghan refugees or citizens of any other country, [they] will face deportation” if they attempt to participate in political activities, he said, adding even documented migrants would be penalized if they violated the directives.
Last month, the Interior Ministry had issued a brief statement warning all illegal and “legal” foreigners living in Pakistan from funding any political and electoral activities ahead of the Feb. 8, 2024 polls.
“[We] have identified 10 people who were involved in political activities” and are deporting them, he said. Since the expiry of an Oct. 31 deadline for undocumented migrants to either voluntarily leave or face deportation, over 482,000 illegal Afghan immigrants have already left the country, according to Bugti. He said this was still the first phase of the deportation drive, adding “everyone” has to go back in the second stage. “Finally, the time is coming when only Pakistanis will live in Pakistan,” he said.
To a question on reports that the Afghan Taliban’s interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, used a Pakistani passport to travel abroad in the past, the caretaker said an inquiry was underway. Acknowledging that fake Pakistani national identity cards and passports were used for identity theft in the past, he said it would “take some time” to identify and resolve all such cases.
Stressing that Pakistan would no longer remain a soft state, Bugti said no one would be permitted to enter or remain in the country without a valid visa or legal documents. To a query on cross-border terrorism, the minister said the government was in touch with Kabul, alleging the terrorist responsible for the August suicide bombing in Bannu was an Afghan citizen who entered Pakistan using an Afghan identity card.
The interim interior minister also addressed prevailing security concerns—particularly for political leaders—saying there is a “general threat” ahead of polls for all politicians as well as a specific alert for Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
Noting the threats faced by political leaders during public rallies and gatherings, he admitted this was a significant challenge amidst resurgent terrorism. Recalling a history of terrorism during past election campaigns, he said Shaukat Aziz, Benazir Bhutto, Nawab Sanaullah Zehri and Mir Siraj Khan Raisani were also targeted during electoral campaigns and political rallies after 2002. However, he vowed, the government would ensure the public had an opportunity to freely exercise its right to vote.
To a question, he said the government would provide civil armed forces for the Feb. 8 elections even though they were presently engaged in anti-terror operations. “Our paramilitary forces are busy in counterterrorism and other operations, but despite all this, we will meet the requirement of the Elections Commission of Pakistan (ECP) regarding the deployment of civil armed forces,” he said.
“Rangers are doing operations in katcha areas of Sindh in difficult conditions. FC [Frontier Corps] Balochistan is overstretched in south and north in deteriorating security conditions of the province,” he said, adding the Frontier Constabulary in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was also combating terrorist attacks.