Pakistan Decides to Repatriate Afghan Refugees Amid Rising Tensions

Pakistan is poised to repatriate over 1.1 million Afghan refugees in the midst of escalating tensions between the neighboring nations, as reported by the Express Tribune. The interim federal government has given preliminary approval to this decision, though official confirmation is pending, leaving the response of Sarfraz Bugti, the Caretaker Interior Minister, still unknown.

Out of this substantial refugee population, approximately 400,000 Afghan individuals sought refuge in Pakistan following the Afghan Taliban’s resurgence in August 2021. An additional 700,000 have been identified as residing in the country without legal authorization for an extended period. These refugees lack essential documentation, such as visas, which permits them to stay in Pakistan. Many have been implicated in criminal activities or anti-state actions, intensifying the urgency of their deportation.

Historically, Pakistan has served as a sanctuary for Afghan refugees for several decades, with a peak population of five million Afghans at one point. Presently, an estimated four million Afghan refugees call Pakistan home, yet only a fraction possess valid refugee cards.

This move to repatriate refugees is set against the backdrop of ongoing disputes between Pakistan and Afghanistan, particularly concerning the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group. Some analysts suggest that Pakistan’s swift actions may be influenced by the Afghan Taliban’s reluctance to confront the TTP. A recent Pakistani delegation led by Ambassador Asif Durrani visited Kabul, urging the Taliban government to address the TTP threat. While the Afghan Taliban indicated potential action, Pakistani officials remain cautious due to unfulfilled past promises.

Pakistan’s decision is expected to draw attention from the Afghan Taliban government and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which typically opposes the forced return of refugees, potentially leading to international repercussions.

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