Pakistan Interior Minister, Sarfraz Bugti at a Press Conference in Islamabad on Oct 3.

Pakistan to Evict Refugees as Tensions Rise with Taliban

The Pakistani government warns of deporting over a million refugees from Afghanistan as early as this coming November. Sarfraz Bugti, Pakistan’s Interior Ministry said at a press conference on Tuesday in Islamabad that his government had already established a task force to crackdown after November 1 on those who he said “leave in Pakistan through illegal means.”

The country’s interim information minister, Murtaza Solangi, also posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that “illegal immigrants” have 28 days to leave.

Mr. Bugti claimed that refugees from Afghanistan are involved in supporting terrorism and dealing narcotics. Of the 24 suicide attacks that have happened in Pakistan since this past January, according to Mr. Bugti, 14 of them have been carried out by individuals from Afghanistan.

“There are attacks on us from Afghanistan and Afghan nationals are involved in those attacks. We have evidence present for that,” Mr. Bugti told reporters.

The news comes amid rising tension between Islamabad and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, believed by many to be closely supported by the Pakistani military establishment. Responding to earlier criticisms by Pakistani officials that terrorist attacks in Pakistan were planned in Afghanistan and executed by its nationals, the Taliban’s spokesman in Kabul, Zabihullah Mujahid, had said that they will cooperate with Pakistani authorities as much as they can.

Mr. Bugti said that the Taliban’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundazada’s decree against suicide attacks outside Afghanistan has not been taken seriously, demanding that “there should be implementation on it in letter and in spirit.”

The Taliban who for two decades raged population centers and cities in Afghanistan with suicide bombing have incorporated the tactic into their military and defense establishment. There is now a specific suicide squad as part of the regime’s army. The group has also placed the yellow-colored cooking oil plastic containers in which they placed explosives during their insurgency at the Afghanistan National Museum in Kabul.

Pakistani authorities say the entry of Afghan nationals into Pakistan without a passport and a valid visa will also be banned beginning in November. Currently, Pakistan allows Afghanistan nationals carrying electronic national ID cards issued by the previous government to enter Pakistan, mostly for medical purposes.

The UN refugee agencies have already shown concern over the Pakistani government’s decision. Reacting to Mr. Bugti’s remarks about the potential forced eviction of hundreds of thousands of refugees, the spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Pakistan, Qaisar Khan Afridi said that those with international protection must not be deported, adding that “any refugee return must be voluntary and without any pressure to ensure protection for those seeking safety.”

Mr. Bugti claimed that there are currently 4.4 million Afghanistan nationals in Pakistan. According to the UN agencies and the Pakistani government, 1.3 million of them have refugee documents and another 880,000 possess legal documents that would give them residency permits in the country. The UNHCR says it is ready to work with the government to develop a mechanism that would ensure that those in need of protection are registered.

The Pakistani law enforcement authorities have doubled down in recent weeks on their crackdown on refugees from Afghanistan. According to media reports and the Taliban’s embassy in Pakistan, over a thousand refugees have been detained in the previous weeks.

Tensions between Islamabad and Kabul have risen to new highs after a cross-border fire in Torkham and an attack on a Pakistani army checkpoint by Tahrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which the Pakistani government claims has basis in Afghanistan. The incident on September 6 at Torkham left at least 6 dead and injured 20 more, resulting in the border closure for over a week which caused economic loss and human suffering in Afghanistan.