Pakistan Begins Mass Deportation of Afghans

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The Pakistani government has given an ultimatum for 1.7 million Afghans living in the country illegally to leave by November 1. Those who fail to leave voluntarily will be forcibly deported. The deportation order was issued by an unelected caretaker government ahead of elections due in January. The Pakistani government has opened 49 holding centres across the country to process and deport Afghans. Thousands of Afghans have joined a snaking queue that stretched seven kilometres at the busiest border point, with officials reporting at least 29,000 people crossed into Afghanistan the day before. More than 140,000 people have left Pakistan since the start of October when the order was issued.

Reasons for Deportation

Millions of Afghans have fled to Pakistan in recent decades, fleeing a series of violent conflicts, including an estimated 600,000 since the Taliban government seized power in August 2021 and imposed its harsh interpretation of Islamic law. Pakistan has said the deportations are to protect its “welfare and security” after a sharp rise in attacks, which the government blames on militants operating from Afghanistan. The United States has called on Pakistan to let through Afghans who are seeking asylum.

Rights Groups Accuse Pakistani Government

Lawyers and rights groups have accused the Pakistani government of using threats, abuse, and detention to coerce Afghan asylum seekers to leave. Afghans have reported weeks of arbitrary arrests and extortion. The expulsion of undocumented Afghans, however, has widespread support from Pakistanis, analysts say, with a protracted refugee presence putting a heavy burden on the country’s infrastructure.

Afghanistan Overwhelmed by Exile

Authorities on the Afghan side of the border have been overwhelmed by the scale of the exodus as they attempt to process those returning. The Taliban government has urged Pakistan to give undocumented Afghans in the country more time to leave as pressure mounts at border posts. The Pakistani government has also targeted houses and businesses they deem illegal, as well as Pakistanis accused of sheltering undocumented Afghans.

Afghan Girl Refuses to Leave

A 14-year-old Afghan girl said she would stay in Pakistan as long as possible, despite not having legal papers. “We are not going back home because my education in Afghanistan would come to a grinding halt,” she said in Peshawar. “Our father has told us that if he is arrested by Pakistani.

SOURCE: Ref Image from Arab News

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