Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar on Wednesday lamented “unnecessary and irresponsible” threats from some Afghan leaders over his government’s ongoing illegal foreigners repatriation plan, adding the subsequent surge in terrorism had “confirmed” the state’s concerns.
“After the statements of Afghan leaders, the extraordinary increase in the recent incidents of terrorism is meaningful and confirms the state’s concerns,” he said during a press conference in Islamabad. Earlier this week, acting Afghan deputy defense minister Mohammed Yaqoob Mujahid had called on Pakistan to not be “cruel” to Afghans leaving the country, warning, “it should plant as much as it will be able to reap.”
Stressing that the repatriation plan was a result of the state’s attempts to curb terrorism, especially attacks emanating from Afghan soil, he recalled that that return to power of the Taliban in Kabul had raised hopes for lasting pace. “Pakistan expected that the Afghan government would take strict action against anti-Pakistan groups, especially the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP),” he said. However, he regretted, the establishment of the interim Afghan government had seen terrorism in Pakistan increase by 60 percent, with suicide attacks surging by 500 percent. Over the past two years, he said, 2,067 innocent citizens were slain in militant attacks.
“TTP terrorists are responsible for taking the lives of innocent citizens and bloodshed in Pakistan. They are using Afghan territory to carry out cowardly attacks on Pakistan’s territory,” he alleged, adding that over since the Taliban returned to power 15 Afghan citizens had been involved in suicide attacks, while 64 others had died fighting Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies.
“Every 15 days since February 2023, Pakistan has been informing the Afghan interim government about the situation,” he said, lamenting that the neighboring nation had not taken any steps to resolve the situation. As part of these discussions, he claimed, Kabul was given a list of Pakistan’s most wanted terrorists based in Afghanistan.
“Instead of taking any concrete steps, the Afghan government has repeatedly advised Pakistan to focus on its own internal situation. After this behavior and non-cooperation of the Afghan government, Pakistan decided to correct its internal affairs,” he said, defending the repatriation plan.
To questions on the tens of thousands of Afghans who have returned to their homeland over the past month, and the potential migrant crisis that has provoked, Kakar said Pakistan has the moral and legal right to send back all illegally residing foreigners. “Illegal immigrants play a major role in spreading insecurity in Pakistan. The government’s recent actions are neither unexpected nor surprising,” he said, adding that 1.4 million Afghan refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) were not being deported.
To another question, he said Pakistan has the data of 25,000 Afghans who are to be relocated to various countries. “These 25,000 Afghans also have to go, those who will take them are also ready, we will not keep them. Afghanistan is not our fifth province, it is a separate country,” he said, rubbishing concerns from some local politicians in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan who have demanded visa- and passport-free travel between Pakistan and Afghanistan due to tribal affiliations.
When asked about the government’s plans to send back illegal migrants—such as Biharis—residing in Karachi, Kakar deflected by saying his government could not be expected to do all the work. He stressed that Pakistan’s hosting of Afghans for four decades was a practical example of the close relations between the neighboring states, but this could not continue indefinitely.
“The limited and meager assistance of international organizations [for refugees] is not even a tenth of the support given by Pakistan over four decades,” he claimed, adding around 252,000 illegal immigrants have returned to their country thus far.
Hoping ties between Islamabad and Kabul would improve after this drive, he maintained that it was “not enacted to target people or make a way to fill pockets of people at lower positions.” Warning that anyone found taking advantage of migrants would be punished, he stressed that any discrimination on the basis of ethnicity would not be tolerated.
To a question on global “pressure” to cease the repatriation plan, the caretaker said describing such “requests” as “demands” was unfair.
To a query on the U.S. State Department denying the abandonment of any equipment in Afghanistan during its hasty withdrawal, Kakar said Washington’s acknowledgement or disavowal was irrelevant, as there was evidence proving Pakistan’s claims. He alleged that not only were such weapons being used against Pakistan, but were also being sold in the black market and making their way throughout the region, as well as to the Middle East.
He noted that within hours of the former Afghan government’s collapse, the 150,000-strong Afghan military trained by the U.S. had “disappeared,” with no details on where their weapons had ended up.