Photo: Geo TV

Taliban Urges Pakistan to Release Thousands of Containers Stuck at Karachi Port

Amidst growing tensions over transitional cargo and deportation of Afghan refugees, the Taliban has asked Pakistan to release thousands of containers stuck at Karachi port. Pakistan recently tightened rules on duty-free goods bound for Afghanistan due to worries about smuggling back into Pakistan.

According to the Arab News Agency, Pakistan authorities say that they have lost millions of dollars in taxes because goods are being sent duty-free from its ports to Afghanistan and then smuggled back across the border.

The Taliban Minister of Industry and Commerce, Nooruddin Azizi, raised the concern during a meeting with Pakistan’s Caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jalil Abbas Jilani in Islamabad on Tuesday, November 14.

The Taliban authorities have accused Pakistan of stopping over 3,000 containers destined for Afghanistan at Karachi port for several months, demanding additional taxes and duty payments. This has resulted in millions of dollars in losses for Afghan traders. “Hundreds of these containers have been parked for several months, while some have been stopped more than a year. The goods inside are spoiling and the traders are suffering losses,” a Taliban official was quoted by the news agency.

The transit issue is one of many problems that have strained relations between Pakistan and the Taliban since the group regained control of Afghanistan in August 2021. Over the past months, Islamabad has accused the Taliban of harboring Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants, who pose a security threat to Pakistan. The Caretaker Prime Minister of Pakistan, Anwar ul-Haq Kakar said earlier this month that TTP attacks have risen by 60 percent since the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan, with 2,267 people killed. Last month, Pakistan ordered hundreds of thousands of undocumented Afghan refugees to return home or face deportation, citing national security concerns and counter-terrorism efforts.

Since the crackdown on undocumented Afghan refugees began, Pakistan has returned or forcibly deported over 327,000 of them back to Afghanistan. The UN and human rights groups have condemned the forced deportation of Afghan refugees, expressing concern about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and the potential for returnees to face abuse and violence from the Taliban.

On Friday, Amnesty International again urged Pakistan to immediately stop detaining and deporting Afghan refugees. “No one should be subjected to mass forced deportations,” said Livia Saccardi, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for campaigns for South Asia. “Thousands of Afghan refugees are being used as political pawns to be returned to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan where their life and physical integrity could be at risk,” Saccardi said

US-based organization Gallup also warned on Friday that economic uncertainty awaits returnees in Afghanistan, where women’s rights continue to deteriorate as they vanish from the workforce and majorities struggle to afford food and shelter. “As thousands of Afghans are forced to cross the border from Pakistan, they face an economy unable to accommodate them, where job prospects are bleak, household incomes are squeezed, and millions are unable to afford the basic necessities of food and shelter,” the organization said.

Pakistan is home to an estimated 3 to 4 million Afghan refugees and migrants, including at least 600,000 who have fled the country since the Taliban regained power in August 2021. Of these, 1.3 million are registered as legal refugees, 850,000 have received Afghan Citizen Cards from Pakistani authorities, and 1.7 million are believed to be living in the country without any documentation. The exact number of undocumented Afghans is difficult to determine, as many people living along the mountainous border cross back and forth without official travel papers.