Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti on Thursday announced that foreigners residing illegally in Pakistan after Nov. 1 will be shifted to “centers” established in all provinces prior to being deported to their homeland, clarifying that this applied to all foreign nationals and not just Afghans.
In a press conference, Bugti stressed that there would be no compromise on the repatriation of foreigners residing in Pakistan without valid documentation, rubbishing any possibility of an extension to the Oct. 31 deadline. However, he stressed, orders had been issued to ensure that illegal foreigners, especially women, children and the elderly, would be treated with the utmost respect and would not be unduly harassed.
“There are numerous countries in the world that have families living on opposite sides of a border,” he said, questioning how this entitled people to freely cross the border without any legal documentation.
Explaining the government’s plan for the deportation process, the caretaker said returnees would be allowed to carry a maximum of Rs. 50,000 in cash with them. “There is no limit to the money they can transfer through banking channels,” he said, adding authorities would also confiscate any property held by illegal foreigners, including Afghans. He further warned that action would be taken against any Pakistani found to be facilitating illegal foreigners in the country. “Punishment will also be given to those who make fake CNICs,” he said in response to a question.
To another question, he said Pakistan would continue to welcome Afghans who entered the country legally, whether for business or other purposes. He also lamented that foreign states like the U.S. and U.K. had spent over two years processing applications of refugees, but expected Pakistan to “tolerate” them indefinitely in violation of law.
A day earlier, Bugti had briefed the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, clarifying that the Oct. 31 deadline applied to all illegally residing foreigners, not just Afghans. Stressing that a “wrong” impression had been created that the new policy only targeted Afghans, he said it was aimed at protecting the country’s sovereignty and only people with valid passports and visas would be permitted to enter the country in future.
“No country in the world allows non-immigrants to settle as permanent citizens and start businesses without documentation,” he said. To a question, he said he was unaware of the issue of Biharis living illegally in the country, but assured the panel this would be investigated.
Speaking with media after the meeting, he claimed no diplomatic intervention was underway to halt Pakistan’s plan, noting western countries strictly followed laws of immigration and barred the entry of anyone without valid documents. “If the western countries are so sensitive about their citizens, then for us Pakistanis are above all,” he added.