“Pakistan launched a crackdown against illegal immigrants in the country on Saturday, Sept. 9. Police rounded up hundreds of Afghan citizens in Pakistan’s financial hub Karachi, accusing them of being illegal immigrants,” Arab News reported on October 5.
“Last Friday, Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said Pakistan would repatriate all illegal Afghan immigrants to curb smuggling of goods and foreign currency,” the report said.
The deportation notice is given to 1.1 million “illegal immigrants’ without clarifying the reason for the action.
They are all Afghan refugees who crossed the border and sought shelter in Pakistan against a reign of terror and brutality let loose by the Taliban in their power spells.
Pakistan had given intense media hype to the influx of Afghan refugees into its territories after the Afghan crisis intensified with the Taliban fighting to throw the American and NATO forces out of Afghan soil.
In the name of giving shelter to hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees, Pakistan received hefty donations from various international sources. Pakistan also managed to profile its image as a so-called great humanitarian society, volunteering to help the destitute Muslims.
What benefits Pakistan could derive from this phenomenon is not what we would deal with. There is no denying that many refugees were allowed by Pakistan to enter the border and find shelter. The entire world recognized it.
But now, political analysts are surprised why Pakistan, after being so generous to the destitute from Afghanistan, has suddenly become hostile and taken a U-turn. Since June last, Islamabad has been sticking to one or the other pretext for not extending the stay permission to these refugees.
The travesty is that those in whose name huge relief and cash were received by way of humanitarian aid are now designated as “illegal immigrants.” The why of this shift of nomenclature is somewhat mystifying.
We know if Pakistan had designated them as “illegal immigrants” from day one, no country, organization, or individual would have come forward to offer humanitarian aid. In a broadcast on September 29, Radio Liberty said that Pakistan had issued an order requiring all people living illegally in the country to leave by November 1.
Caretaker Interior Minister Sardar Bugti said that businesses and properties of foreign nationals living illegally in Pakistan will be confiscated if they do not leave Pakistan. Bugti said the crackdown would apply to all nationalities but was not aimed at Afghans, though most migrants in the country are Afghans.
A government statement said the new policy was endorsed on October 3 during a high-level meeting of Pakistani political leaders and the country’s powerful military.
A pertinent question Pakistani authorities shall have to answer is what circumstances compelled lakhs of Afghans to leave their native places and seek shelter in the neighboring country of Pakistan? Sometimes, people’s memory is short.
The fact is that the Taliban was the creation of Pakistan during the government of Benazir Bhutto in 1995. General Babar, the then-home minister, was the person who had conceived the idea and translated it into practice after obtaining a nod from Washington.
Pakistani newspaper The Nation of January 11, 2011, wrote: “In 1995, Babar boasted to Saudi intelligence head Turki bin Faisal Al Saud’s chief of staff that under his direction Pakistan’s interior ministry had largely created the Taliban in Afghanistan; Babar fondly referred to the Taliban as “my boys.”
Babar had convinced the CIA that his theory in creating the Taliban was to clear Afghanistan of mujahedin resistance force of unruly elements that had extensively infiltrated the rank and file of anti-Soviet resistance force and indulged in large-scale loot and mayhem.
When the Taliban gained control of Kabul in 1996, they indulged in massive oppression against the civilian population in Afghanistan on the pretext that they comprised the unruly elements and had to be eliminated.
Thus, lakhs of helpless Afghans, men old and young, women and children, had to flee their homes. Pakistan could not close the border upon them and lodged them in refugee camps.
Thus, we find that the Pakistani establishment had to be held responsible for the destitution of the hapless Afghans. Labeling them as “illegal immigrants” and being harsh and callous to deport them mercilessly and confiscate their properties is unjust and unfair.
About how the Pakistanis treat these Afghan refugees, one Naqeebullah told the correspondent of ToI, “When we go out, we have to make our little child sit on the motorcycle as if he is our passport and ID card. We have the cards, but they don’t work in front of the police. We go out on roads like thieves.”
Pakistan’s decision is against the UN Human Rights stipulations. The Human Rights Charter provides the refugees adequate safeguards against refoulment. The foremost recommendation is that the refugees will not be deported forcibly and will return to their original destinations only of their own free will.
India could not and did not force the illegal immigrants of Bangladesh into Assam. Their number was several thousand. Most of them have now got Indian citizenship. When India wanted to send the Rohingyas back to Myanmar, most of the Islamic countries, with Pakistan in the lead, said India deliberately indulged in an anti-Muslim act. Some European countries besides the US counseled India to uphold the UN legislation on the deportation of refugees/immigrants.
Pakistan is an Islamic Republic. It claims to be caring for Muslims everywhere, especially in the sub-continent. Where has the Islamic fraternal sentiment evaporated in the case of the Afghan refugees who have been living in Pakistan for several decades? Why doesn’t the OIC react to the inhuman treatment Pakistan is threatening to mete out to the lakhs of Afghan refugees?
However, the UN has opposed a deadline set by Pakistan to evict the “illegal immigrants,” saying, “Any refugee return must be voluntary and without any pressure to ensure protection for those seeking safety.”
The real reason why Pakistan wants to deport the Afghan refugees in such a large number is political. Pakistan army is harassed by recurrent attacks by TTP. In desperation, the Pakistan army has been shelling or bombarding targets inside Afghan territory, escalating tension with Kabul.
Pakistan has accused Kabul of soft-pedaling with the TTP insurgents and giving them a haven. The Taliban openly and frankly assert that the TTP are their kith and kin and have supported them fully during the war with NATO and the US. All this is a red rag to the bull.
The forced expulsion of the Afghan refugees is fraught with many serious consequences. Among them would–be–deported Afghan refugees, including journalists, activists, and members of the former Afghan regime and security forces, who will have to face reprisals from the Taliban if they return to their homeland.
The Afghan refugees are sending foreign remittances to their families, which would stop if they were deported. It would mean the economic strangulation of many Afghan families back home.
Moreover, the Taliban government, with a shattered economy, will not be able to absorb millions of impoverished Afghans on their return home. All this is likely to aggravate the devastating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Iran has simultaneously announced that they have plans to deport millions of undocumented Afghan refugees and migrants forcefully. Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said on September 27 that five million Afghans who were “illegally “in the Islamic Republic of Iran would be deported.
Imran, an Afghan living in the southern city of Shiraz, told Radio Liberty that “the authorities were already gathering Afghans from cities irrespective of whether they have legal documents or not,” Even before their announcement, Tehran and Islamabad had detained and deported thousands of undocumented Afghans.
Pakistan and Iran face intense internal turmoil: Pakistan because of its deep state status and Iran because of a repressive and fanatical conservative regime in Teheran. Pakistan also suffers from ethnic malaise.
Both are anti-democracy and anti-liberalism. It means that both countries are deep in strife with their people. Both are on the brink of a collapse; nothing but a complete political overhaul can save them.