In a recent press conference, Sarfaraz Bugti, the caretaker Federal Interior Minister of Pakistan, made a significant announcement regarding the country’s stance on illegal immigrants. He revealed that Pakistan has set a firm deadline of November 1 for all illegal immigrants to leave the country voluntarily or face serious consequences, including deportation and the confiscation of their assets and businesses within Pakistan.
Separately, Murtaza Solangi, the interim minister of information, declared that illegal immigrants now had 28 days to depart Pakistan.
The interior minister outlined the government’s approach to handling this issue, which includes a limited time for undocumented immigrants to regularize their status. From October 10 to October 31, Pakistan will accept e-tazkiras i.e., electronic Afghan identity cards, as a means of legalizing one’s stay. However, once this period expires, the standard passport and visa policy will be enforced.
Furthermore, Bugti disclosed that starting from November 1, an operation will be launched by a task force already established within the interior ministry. This operation will specifically target properties and businesses that belong to illegal immigrants or those that are operating in collaboration with Pakistani nationals.
According to Bugti, there are approximately 1.73 million Afghan nationals residing in Pakistan without legal documentation, and the total number of Afghan refugees in the country stands at 4.4 million. He emphasized that the government views this situation with utmost seriousness, citing security concerns and evidence of Afghan nationals being involved in attacks within Pakistan.
The interior minister did not specify how authorities would ensure the departure of undocumented immigrants but stated that law enforcement agencies would be mobilized to locate and deport them. Properties and businesses associated with illegal immigrants will be seized, and Pakistanis involved in facilitating such operations will face legal consequences.
In addition to addressing the issue of illegal immigrants, the task force will examine the issue of illegal immigration as well as the misuse of fake passports and identity cards because these papers have been used for malicious purposes. According to Bugti, Pakistani identity cards may be used to identify those who do not have any legal justification for holding them.
To encourage citizens to report illegal activities, a universal helpline number and a web portal will be launched, allowing people to provide information anonymously. The government plans to offer rewards under an informer scheme to start cooperation.
Bugti also highlighted that starting November 1, Pakistan would only permit entry to Afghans who possess valid passports and visas, indicating a stricter border control policy.
This decision comes amidst concerns about the rising number of Afghan refugees and undocumented immigrants in Pakistan. While the government aims to address security issues and regulate immigration, it remains to be seen how this ambitious plan will be implemented and what impact it will have on the lives of those affected. Afghans claim that the arrests have been made without cause. In a statement published on X, the Afghan embassy said that more than 1,000 Afghans had been detained in the previous two weeks, half of them were in Pakistan legally. The police in Pakistan continue to detain and harass Afghan refugees, the statement read. “Despite the repeated promises of the Pakistani authorities,” it added