Officials say Pakistan’s move to evict illegal aliens has nothing to do with TTP issue

 

ISLAMABAD:

Pakistan’s move to deport illegal migrants has put its relationship with Afghanistan at stake as the Taliban government is not happy with Islamabad and a number of their leaders, including interim prime minister, defence and interior ministers have publicly criticised Pakistan for evicting thousands of Afghans.

Though Pakistan has repeatedly stated that its decision was only meant to send back those having no legal documents, the Afghan Taliban government continues to accuse Islamabad of harassing the refugees.

Kabul has indicated that Islamabad’s decision may be a pressure tactic on the issue of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Afghan Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, in a recent video message, asked Pakistan not to punish Afghan refugees if it had any issue with the Kabul administration.

Haqqani termed Pakistani decision as un-Islamic, claiming that Islamabad could not blame Afghanistan for its own problems. Defence Minister Mullah Yaqub, meanwhile, warned that such a decision would have consequences for Pakistan.

However, despite this barrage of statements, officials here said that Pakistan’s decision had nothing to do with the issue of the TTP.

“I can tell you with full authority that this has no linkages with the TTP issue,” a senior government official told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity on Sunday.

“There is a perception that our decision is to put pressure on the Afghan government. That’s not true,” the official said. The official added that the decision to send back all foreigners residing in the country illegally was taken six months ago.

“We are a country facing economic challenges. We can’t shoulder the burden of illegal migrants,” the official explained.

 

When asked, a Foreign Office official dismissed the Afghan government’s criticism. “We also have our list of issues but we always raise those through diplomatic channels. If the Afghan government has any issue they should speak to us instead of public statements,” the official said.

The relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan is already on the edge over the presence of TTP sanctuaries across the border.

The latest move by Pakistan to repatriate Afghans having no refugee status or visa has further compounded the bilateral relationship.
The official clarified that Pakistan was not bothering those who have Proof of Residence (POR) or Afghan Citizenship Card (ACC).

“But those who don’t even have any identity how can we allow them to stay. No country tolerates illegal migrants,” the official said.

The official rejected criticism by certain international organisations and the Western countries over the move.

“They should first implement what they preach,” the official said, taking jibe at those countries who were criticising Pakistan’s approach.

“They don’t even rescue illegal migrants. Let me put it bluntly they let illegal migrants drown,” the official said, referring to certain incidents where boat-riding migrants sank off the coasts in Europe.

The official insisted that Pakistan treated all those illegal migrants well over the years but now they would have to go back.

Pakistan expects the process of repatriation of as estimated 1.7 million illegal Afghan migrants will be complete in a year.

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