Pakistan's Crackdown on Illegal Foreigners Forces Over 400,000 Afghans to Flee Home: Taliban Confirms
Pakistan has seen over 400,000 Afghans returning home as part of a crackdown on illegal foreigners. The majority have used border crossings to make their way back, while registered refugees are exempt. Pakistan's measures have sparked protests and disruptions, but the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan assures it is providing support to those returning. This development reflects a shift in Pakistan's perspective on Afghanistan.
Pakistan has announced that over 400,000 Afghans have returned to their home country in response to the ongoing crackdown on illegal foreigners. Zabihullah Mujahid, the chief spokesperson of the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan, confirmed the number and stated that many of these individuals have been using the border crossings of Torkham and Spin Boldak to make their way back home. This crackdown was initially announced by Pakistani authorities in October, stating that anyone without proper documents had to leave the country or face arrest.
While an estimated 1.7 million Afghans had been residing in Pakistan, officials clarified that the crackdown targeted only those without proper documentation, with 1.4 million registered as refugees being exempt. The influx of Afghans seeking refuge in Pakistan increased significantly in recent years, particularly after the Taliban takeover in 2021. As a result, Pakistan introduced new measures requiring residents in the town of Chaman, located along the southwestern border, to obtain visas for cross-border travel, replacing their previous special permits.
Residents in Chaman have been protesting against these measures, demanding that Pakistan allow them to continue using the special permits for business purposes and to visit relatives in the Afghan border city of Spin Boldak. Their frustrations were evident on Monday when hundreds briefly blocked a key road leading to the Chaman border, disrupting traffic and impacting the repatriation efforts for some Afghans. Since November 1, Pakistani authorities have been conducting door-to-door checks of migrants' documentation as part of the crackdown. While officials initially stated that it encompassed all foreigners in the country, the majority affected are Afghan nationals.
This recent development follows warnings from the World Health Organization that approximately 1.3 million Afghans are expected to return to Afghanistan despite the onset of cold weather. Despite the criticism and concerns raised by international and domestic human rights groups regarding the expulsions, the Taliban-led administration in Afghanistan has stated that it is providing shelter and food to the returning Afghans. This marks a significant shift in Pakistan's perspective toward Afghanistan, which has been deteriorating gradually due to Islamabad's accusations that the Afghan Taliban allowed its territory to be used by groups like the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban for cross-border activities aimed at Pakistan's security establishments.