Photo: via Anwar ul Haq Kakar on X

Pakistan Prime Minister: Refugee Deportation is Counter-Terrorism

In the face of mounting criticism from rights groups, Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwar ul Haq Kakar defended his government’s policy to deport undocumented refugees. He linked the country’s ongoing crackdown on refugees to counter-terrorism efforts, attributing the recent surge in terrorist attacks in Pakistan to the Taliban’s rise in Afghanistan. 

Previously, the country’s Minister of Interior had said the motive behind the mass deportation of refugees is to curb terrorism and other illegal activities.

In a press conference on Wednesday, November 8, Kakar said that the Taliban has failed to curb cross-border violence, adding that they have allowed Afghanistan to be used for terrorist activities. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a terrorist group with ideological and operational alignment with the Taliban in Afghanistan, has carried out a series of deadly attacks in Pakistan, Kakar added.

“[We had hoped] strict action would be taken against Pakistan-opposing groups, especially the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, and they would absolutely not be allowed to use Afghan soil against Pakistan,” Kakar said. “But unfortunately, after the establishment of the interim Afghan government, there has been a 60% increase in terror incidents and a 500% rise in suicide attacks in Pakistan,” he added.

In recent years, Pakistan has witnessed a surge in terrorist activities and suicide bombings, most of them attributed to the TTP’s growing influence. According to Kakar, during the past two years, these attacks have claimed the lives of 2,267 Pakistani citizens, and 15 Afghan citizens have been involved in suicide bombings. Additionally, he noted that 64 Afghan citizens have been killed while fighting Pakistani law enforcement agencies during counterterrorism operations.

The TTP has resurged in Pakistan after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, raging violent attacks against Pakistani security forces and civilians. Islamabad has been urging the Taliban to rein in cross-border violence and complaining that the group enjoys “greater operational freedom” under the Taliban rule.

Defending his government’s decision to deport undocumented Afghan refugees, Kakar reiterated that this action was not unprecedented and was necessary to address the security challenges posed by “illegal aliens” who had allegedly contributed to the unrest in Pakistan. He further stated that over 200,000 Afghans had already left Pakistan voluntarily.

Among those facing deportation are thousands of Afghans awaiting resettlement to Western countries. The Pakistani Prime Minister said they are in communication with destination countries to find a solution. Britain and Canada are the two countries that have announced new efforts to either expedite the relocation process or help those who are on their lists. There is also a large number of U.S. Special Immigration Visa (SIV) applicants in limbo in Pakistan. He emphasized that these refugees are on a temporary basis and Pakistan does not object to their presence but expects the destination countries to finalize their relocation plans. There are 25,000 Afghan refugees who require relocation to third countries, who Kakar said should also leave as soon as possible, “we will not hold them indefinitely. Afghanistan is not our fifth province; it is a separate country.”

Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister’s remarks come amid a government crackdown on undocumented Afghan refugees in the country, with over 203,639 Afghan nationals having been deported since the operation commenced. Despite international appeals, Pakistan has remained unresponsive to calls to halt the forced deportations. Humanitarian organizations have voiced concerns about the dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, including the scarcity of basic necessities, widespread homelessness, and limited employment opportunities.