ISLAMABAD - Pakistan is in contact with the United States over a plan to send more than one million Afghan refugees back home, diplomatic sources said yesterday. Senior Pakistani diplomats told The Nation that Pakistan had briefed the US about the illegal activities of the Afghan refugees and their involvement in terrorism.
One diplomat said the US respects Pakistan’s decision but feared humanitarian crisis due to the massive repatriation. “But we will take decision in our own national interest. We are a responsible state and telling our friends that this is not revenge. We have evidence of their (refugees) involvement in terrorism and disruptive activities,” he added.
Another diplomat said the decision has been taken to send back the illegal refugees and practical steps will be taken soon.
Earlier, the caretaker federal cabinet approved the return of approximately 1.1 million Afghan refugees living unlawfully within Pakistan. This significant decision stems from the ongoing tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s decision to repatriate illegal Afghan refugees is expected to evoke reactions from the Afghan Taliban government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The UNHCR opposes the policy of forcibly returning refugees. Pakistan maintains there are 1.1 million Afghan refugees living in the country without legal documentation, and a vast number of Afghan nationals have entered Pakistan illegally following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.
Authorities claim a substantial portion of these refugees is involved in activities detrimental to the state, prompting their prompt repatriation. Pakistan has communicated its decision to the Afghan Taliban government. Pakistan has been a host to millions of Afghan refugees for numerous years, with a peak population of five million at one point. Approximately four million Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan, but only a fraction possesses valid refugee cards. The crackdown on illegal Afghan refugees is a response to the strained relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, primarily related to the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).