Crackdown underway against illegal immigrants, not Afghan nationals: Bugti

sirfraz bhugti

ISLAMABAD, Nov 13 (APP): Caretaker Minister for Interior Sarfraz Ahmed Bugti,informed the Senate on Monday that the government was carrying out a crackdown against all illegal immigrants in the country and not Afghan nationals only.

Winding up discussion on a motion to discuss the Federal Government’s decision to expel the immigrants, including Afghan refugees from Pakistan in a short time, he rejected the notion that the crackdown had been launched against Afghan nationals.

The operation was underway against illegal immigrants who had been residing in Pakistan without any travel documents, the minister added.

Bugti said no country allowed any foreigner to live, do business, or buy properties without legal documents. “Whether does any country, including Afghanistan, permit Pakistani people to cross their borders without legal documents?” he questioned.

He said that even in Afghanistan, Pakistani businessmen are required to produce guarantors before establishing businesses.

He said foreigners with valid visas and legal documents would be welcomed in Pakistan and even allowed to do business.

The minister said that the prime minister, during a cabinet meeting, gave a clear policy that no illegal immigrant would be mishandled, and assured that the police would treat Afghan refugees with dignity.

Two to three station house officers (SHOs) had been suspended for their involvement in mishandling cases, he added.

Bugti elaborated that the operation against illegal immigrants was being executed strategically, with committees established at divisional and district levels to address the issue.

The provincial stakeholders, along with the Afghan consulates, were also taken on board, he added.

He said over 300,000 Afghan nationals, including 294,000 voluntarily, had so far returned to their native country. Only 8,000 Afghan were sent back by the Government of Pakistan, he added.

A portal and helpline had been established for complaints, with 86 percent of the 569 received complaints solved, the minister said.

He said “holding centers” with essential amenities, had been set up across the country to accommodate illegal immigrants before deporting them to their home nations. The centers were providing food and medical facilities, he said, assuring that women, children, and elderly people would be treated respectfully.

The foreigners without legal documents would not be sent to jails, rather kept in the centers and then sent to their respective countries, he reiterated.

The minister reaffirmed that the government would not compromise on the expulsion of illegal immigrants from Pakistan.

Earlier, the senators engaged in a discussion on the motion, during which Interior Minister Bugti urged the movers to replace the phrase “Afghan Refugees” in their motion with “illegal aliens,” emphasizing that the ongoing operation was specifically against the undocumented foreigners residing in Pakistan and not the refugees.

Senator Shafiq Tareen, who presented the motion, appealed to the government to reconsider its decision concerning foreign individuals who had been residing in the country for decades. He cited an ongoing protest in Chaman over the imposition of passport requirements.

Senator Tahir Ahmed Bizinjo called for a new Afghan policy. He proposed the Senate chairman to convene a meeting of the Committee of the Whole, ensuring representation from both the government and opposition leaders, as well as all relevant stakeholders to discuss the issue.

Leader of the Opposition Shahzad Waseem stressed on dispelling misunderstandings, acknowledging the significant sacrifices made by the Pakistani nation and forces in the war against terrorism. He emphasized the historical assistance provided by Pakistan to the Afghans and urged for removal of the misperception.

Senator Mushtaq Ahmed endorsed the call for a meeting of the Committee of the Whole, emphasizing the shared traditions between Pakistan and Afghanistan. He stressed the importance of restoring confidence between the two nations.

He called for developing a comprehensive plan in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and ensuring the repatriation of Afghans in accordance with the established procedures.

Senator Haji Hidayatullah Khan underscored the historical context of the relationship between the two nations, reminding the assembly of instances when Afghans did not stand in solidarity with Pakistan during its conflicts with India.

He harkened back to the time when Afghans sought refuge in Pakistan during the Soviet-Afghan war and subsequently dispersed across the country.

Senator Hidaytullaj Khan urged for the dispelling of misunderstandings and a thorough reconsideration of the current policy.

Senator Saadia Abbasi said that the Afghan issue spanned more than 40 years. She said Pakistan helped a lot of Afghans and repatriations of Afghans should be made in a proper way.

Senator Ishaq Dar stressed the need for an in-camera session of the House on the issue so a concrete policy could be devised with consultation of all stakeholders and political parties.

Recalling a consensus policy on devising a National Action Plan (NAP) to cope with the menace of terrorism in the wake of the Army Public School terrorist attack, he said that the then government took on board all political parties, including the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. The NAP was devised jointly with taking input of all political parties in the country, he said.

He said it was the responsibility of government to ensure the safe and honorable return of Afghan refugees to their native country, besides handling the issue collectively.

Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haider condemned the kidnapping and then releasing of Haji Naseeb Ullah Achakzai, and expressed concern over rising incidents of kidnapping for ransom in Balochistan and Sindh.

He said that Pakistan accepted the Afghan refugees open-heartedly and did not even restrict them to the camps. Currently, around 30-35 percent of businesses in the country were in the hands of Afghan people, he said.

He called for convening an all parties conference to devise modalities for their peaceful and honorable return to their country.

Manzoor Ahmed Kakar demanded action against the officials who had provided Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs) and passports to the Afghani people.

He said that some people were politicizing the issue and wanted to use it for mere political gains. He said that some time frame should be given to them for the repatriation of immigrants in a respectful manner.

Dilawar Khan said that India had set up 22 consulates in Afghanistan which were being used for carrying out terrorist activities in Pakistan. He also called for an in-camera meeting to take on board all political parties.

Abida Muhammad Azeem said that the outgoing Afghans should be facilitated and should not be manhandled.

Irfan Siddiqui said the Afghans had been living in Pakistan for the last over 40 years. They had come to Pakistan without any visa in 1979. Pakistan welcomed millions of Afghan refugees in 1979. However, he said, unfortunately, no political governments could devise a solid policy about the Afghan refugees.

He suggested that some tribunals shouild be set up to hear cases of registered Afghan refugees and they should be returned to their country in an honourable way.

Molvi Faiz Muhammad said that local Balochi people were being ignored in all mega projects being carried out in the province and instead non-locals were being recruited.

He also called for a safe and honourable repatriation of to the refugees.

Umer Farooq requested the respectable repatriation of Afghan people to their homeland.

Naseema Ehsan suggested that talks should be held with the Government of Afghanistan for security and jobs for Afghan families.

Kamran Murtaza recommended consulting the Upper House of the Parliament on the repatriation of Afghan nationals.

APP/zah-muk-raz

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