Home Latest News Pakistan Tells Illegally Residing Foreign Nationals to Leave by Nov. 1

Pakistan Tells Illegally Residing Foreign Nationals to Leave by Nov. 1

Any illegal residents who continue to stay in the country past deadline face deportation, confiscation of their properties and businesses

by Staff Report

Photo courtesy PID

Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti on Tuesday warned all foreign nationals—including millions of Afghans—residing illegally in Pakistan to either leave the country voluntarily by Nov. 1 or face deportation.

Addressing media after a meeting of the Apex Committee of the National Action Plan (NAP), he said the interim government had decided to implement the stringent measures to address the deteriorating security situation, which has seen a resurgence of terrorism nationwide. While he did not single out any country, it is apparent that the decision aims to tackle the hundreds of thousands of Afghans the government claims are residing in Pakistan illegally.

Bugti said all law enforcement agencies would work in concert to deport illegally residing foreign nationals if they did not voluntarily leave by Nov. 1. He warned that any foreign nations illegally residing in Pakistan after Nov. 1 would not only face deportation, but also confiscation of their properties and businesses. He further warned that action would also be taken against any Pakistani citizen involved in illegal businesses involving illegally residing foreigners.

He said around 1.73 million Afghan nationals in Pakistan had no legal documents, adding 4.4 million Afghan refugees were currently living in the country.

Per the interior minister, the Apex Committee also decided to introduce a “one document regime” for Afghans traveling to Pakistan to streamline border protocols. He said the first phase, starting from Oct. 10, would allow Afghans with e-Tazkirah to enter Pakistan, but physical documents would no longer be entertained. From November, he said, all Afghans wishing to travel to Pakistan would need valid visas. “All other documents that were earlier admissible would not be valid for travel use,” he added.

Thousands of Afghans use Tazkirahs to shuttle between the two countries. A decades-old practice, the document is not a formal visa, and merely involves border officials signing a document granting entry to anyone wishing to cross the Durand Line. It is widely considered to be an inefficient system that lacks proper records, making it difficult to monitor the movement of foreigners.

Bugti said the government was also undertaking steps to streamline the functions of NADRA, acknowledging that fraudulent activities, including the issuance of fake national identity cards to foreign individuals, had occurred in the past. He noted that one such practice involved adding foreign nationals to a Pakistani’s family tree, thereby granting them illegal citizenship in violation of law. Warning that the government could even conduct DNA tests of suspicious individuals to ensure all illegal foreign nationals were evicted from Pakistan, he said the government was establishing a web portal and a Universal Access Number to allow for anonymous reporting of illegal immigrants and illegal practices such as smuggling and hoarding.

The interim minister said joint checkposts had been established at the borders of the provinces to tackle challenges such as smuggling and hoarding. He also vowed to expedite action against people involved in electricity pilferage, Hawala, Hundi and smuggling.

The caretaker said the Interior Ministry had formed a task force to implement and monitor the announced actions. He said the safety and security of the people of Pakistan was the prime responsibility and foremost priority of the government. “There have been 24 suicide attacks [in Pakistan] since January. Of these, 14 were carried out by Afghan nationals,” he said. “There are no two opinions that we are attacked from within Afghanistan and Afghan nationals are involved in attacks on us,” he said. “We have evidence,” he added.

Bugti also expressed concern over the rising use of narcotics among youth and said a Counter Narcotics Center would be established in the federal capital to tackle the threat. He said the Apex Committee had also reiterated that all minorities would be assured state protection, adding no group or individual would be allowed to suppress them as “Islam gives lessons to provide protection to minorities.”

The Apex Committee meeting was chaired by caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar and included the participation of Army Chief Gen. Asim Munir, ministers and other senior security officials.

According to sources, the Apex Committee also decided to establish drug rehabilitation centers in each province in a phased manner. It reiterated warnings that only the state is mandated to use force and no political armed groups or organizations are permitted in Pakistan. It further said the state would not tolerate any interpretation of Islam for political goals, adding propaganda and disinformation campaigns would be dealt with strictly under the country’s cybercrime laws.

Words of caution

Following Bugti’s press conference, the Afghanistan Embassy in Islamabad lamented the arrest and harassment of Afghan refugees by police in Pakistan. Claiming many Afghans had been arrested across Pakistan over the past two weeks, it urged Islamabad to stop the ongoing persecution as soon as possible.

Qaisar Khan Afridi of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also told Anadolu Agency that any refugee return must be voluntary and without any pressure. He said the UNHCR was prepared to assist Pakistan in establishing a system for overseeing and recording individuals seeking international protection within its borders.

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