Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Thursday stressed that the implementation of the Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan (IFRP) has commenced from Nov. 1 and will continue in a “phased and orderly” manner in line with sovereign domestic laws, and applicable international norms and principles.
Addressing a weekly press briefing, spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch stressed the new policy was aimed at individuals currently in Pakistan in violation of immigration laws, including those who have overstayed their visas or lack valid documentation. Noting the government had granted a month-long “grace period” for voluntary returns, she said thousands had already returned to their homeland.
“This process will continue in an orderly and phased manner,” she said. “The [IFRP] applies to all foreigners residing illegally in Pakistan, irrespective of their nationality and country of origin,” she added. “The decision is in exercise of Pakistan’s sovereign domestic laws, and compliant with applicable international norms and principles. It does not apply to individuals who enjoy refugee status, who will continue to be generously hosted by Pakistan,” she added.
To a query on whether there had been any official communication from the Afghan government seeking a delay to the repatriation process, she said authorities had been “explaining its various facets” to the general public, as well as friendly nations, including Afghanistan, since its announcement. “Our consultations with Afghanistan have continued and the two foreign ministers also discussed it when they met in Tibet a fortnight ago,” she said, adding the government had issued “clear directions” that all individuals being repatriated should be treated in a “humane and respectable” manner.
“In that respect, to ensure compliance and to facilitate individuals who may have any complaints, helplines have been established, both at the federal level and provincial levels,” she said, adding anyone who witnessed mistreatment or was victim to it could register a complaint. “We have also announced that individuals who leave and return to Afghanistan, especially those who left before Nov. 1, are welcome to apply for visas to return to Pakistan legally,” she said.
According to Baloch, Pakistan is currently engaged with approximately a dozen countries, including the U.S., with respect to Afghan individuals to be resettled in third countries. “These consultations continue and Pakistan has impressed on these governments to expedite their visas and approval processes so that they can leave for their destinations without further delay,” she said, noting lists provided by these countries were under discussion.
Stressing on the importance of processing these cases urgently, she clarified that the inclusion of an individual’s name in these lists did not necessarily mean these countries had agreed to issue visas to them. “That is why Pakistan is in contact with these countries to ensure expedited decisions in terms of their settlement to third countries,” she added.
The spokesperson also reiterated Pakistan’s concern about the “dire situation” in occupied Palestine. Condemning Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza, including on civilian targets, she said it had created an unacceptable humanitarian situation. “For the last three weeks the massacre of Palestinians continues unabated, with the death of over 8,000 civilians of which 70 percent are women and children,” she said, stressing these “war crimes” were being perpetrated by Israel with full impunity as the “international community continues to repeatedly fail the people of Palestine.”
Urging the global community to play its role for an immediate end to the atrocities, she expressed the hope that a U.N. General Assembly resolution seeking a ceasefire would lead to an early end to the carnage in Gaza. “The U.N. Security Council must act and fulfill its responsibility of upholding peace. It must call for lifting the siege, protecting civilians, and facilitating humanitarian corridors for provision of uninterrupted relief supplies for the beleaguered people of Gaza,” she added.
India and Kashmir
The Foreign Office also condemned ongoing rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), noting 17 Kashmiris had been killed and 10 injured in October. “In over 200 cordon and search operations and house raids, they destroyed houses and arbitrarily arrested 78 individuals,” said the spokesperson, calling on the international community to play its role in preventing “tragedies of unimaginable proportions.” She stressed that Pakistan would continue to extend political, diplomatic and moral support to Kashmiris for a just and peaceful settlement of the dispute in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolutions.
To a question on the sentencing of eight Indian naval officers to death in Qatar for espionage, she said this indicated India’s espionage network now extended beyond South Asia. “These developments confirm what Pakistan has said in the past that India has a wide extraterritorial espionage and intelligence network around the world,” she said, adding Pakistan has been a target of India’s state sponsored terrorism, subversion and espionage “for a long time.”
Baloch also announced that interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar would embark on an official visit to Tashkent, Uzbekistan to participate in the 16th Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Summit on Nov. 8-9. During his visit, she said, he would reaffirm Pakistan’s commitment to ECO Vision 2025 and promotion of cooperation in the areas of trade, transport, connectivity, energy, tourism and economic growth and productivity. “He will present Pakistan’s vision for the future work of the organization and for promotion of regional connectivity and mutual prosperity. He will also engage in bilateral discussions with the leadership of Uzbekistan and participating leaders,” she added.