Is Pakistan Collectively Punishing Afghans With Repatriation?
Pakistan has begun rounding up undocumented foreigners, mostly illegal Afghan refugees, after the deadline for illegal nationals to leave the country expired on 1 November.
With the Pakistani government demanding that illegal immigrants to leave the country due to terrorism-related incidents, thousands of Afghan nationals being forced to return to their homeland, which is now ruled by the Taliban* movement.
Afghan refugees fled their country in time to live in peace in Pakistan. Now, on their return, they are likely to face a difficult time starting their lives anew
Over the course of years, a significant number of Afghans have flocked to Pakistan, driven by the turmoil of wars and the initial ascent of the Taliban to power in 1996. In August 2021 alone, when the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan, some 600,000 Afghans fled to Pakistan.
Amid the mass exodus of Afghans, a recent report by Pakistan's Sindh provincial home department described illegal immigrants
as a security threat and warned that the province's demographics would change completely by 2040 if they were not repatriated.
Sputnik India spoke to an expert to explore the nature of Pakistan's measures against illegal Afghans.
Sushant Sareen, a senior fellow at India's premier think tank, Observer Research Foundation, believes that Pakistan had been using the Afghan refugees as pawns to try and put pressure on the Taliban.
The geopolitical expert explained that Pakistan wanted to send them a very strong signal that there would be consequences if the Taliban did not give in to everything Pakistan demanded of them.
"It came out of the blue. It came after a couple of very big attacks against Pakistan for which they did not get much satisfaction from the Taliban," the expert said.
He believes Islamabad denies that the repatriation is aimed to punish and deliver a message
. “Now they deny it because they have taken the position that they are pushing out refugees who are illegally in Pakistan, who have no documents.”
The expert highlighted that, simultaneously, they have declared their intention to expel numerous refugees who were previously registered in Pakistan by the end of December.
"So it's not only the illegal or undocumented refugees who will be thrown out or expelled, it's also those who are registered who will be subject to the same measures".
The expert believes that illegal Afghans have become refugees because of "the wars that have been imposed on Afghanistan from within Pakistan, and Pakistan's aiding and abetting and profiting from these wars that have created these refugees".
He explained that in a sense this [taking in refugees inside Pakistan] was not an act of altruism. "It was pure and simple a calculated kind of move. Because they were making money out of it, both directly and indirectly."
“Now they are meting out this punishment to achieve their own security and strategic objectives,” the geopolitical expert stated.
''A total of 228,574 illegal Afghan nationals have been repatriated as of today,'' Pakistan's Foreign Ministry reported on Thursday.
* The Taliban is under UN sanctions for extremism.