Pakistan is grappling with potentially deporting over a million undocumented foreigners by the end of the month, a massive endeavour described as one of the largest deportation operations in recent times. A directive from the federal apex committee has urged all undocumented immigrants, primarily Afghans, to depart by October 31 or face legal consequences.
This decision has sparked anxiety within the Afghan community, predominantly in KP, and has been criticized by Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. Behind the scenes, officials admit that the task’s scale is daunting, requiring significant planning and resources to manage the repatriation.
Uncharted Numbers and Hasty Plans
There is uncertainty about the actual number of undocumented immigrants in Pakistan. Though estimates suggest 1.7 million undocumented Afghans, these figures aren’t definitive. The UNHCR states that there are 2.18 million documented Afghan refugees, which includes those holding Proof of Registration (POR) cards and Afghan Citizens Cards (ACCs).
The resurgence of the Afghan Taliban in 2021 led to another influx of Afghans, many of whom have now overstayed their visas. There’s a realization among officials about the urgency to address the refugee issue, but a comprehensive strategy is still in the works. However, amid all these logistical challenges, there’s a plea for humanity, with the UNHCR emphasizing that any refugee return should be voluntary and protective of those seeking refuge.