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Balochistan to penalize residents hosting Afghan nationals

Foreign minister says Pakistan would not accept anymore refugees

SAMAA | - Posted: Sep 15, 2021 | Last Updated: 1 month ago
Posted: Sep 15, 2021 | Last Updated: 1 month ago

Afghans walk along fences as they arrive in Pakistan through the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman on August 24, 2021 following Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan. (Photo AFP)

Authorities in Balochistan have decided to penalize anyone offering refuge to Afghan nationals who have recently entered the province from Afghanistan and trying to permanently settle there or live for a longer time.

The decision – made at a high-level meeting – comes as reports indicated that a crackdown to expel newly arrived Afghan nationals was already well under way.

Some of the Afghans entered from the Chaman border crossing soon after the Taliban took over Kabul on August 15 while hundreds more have arrived, through the same route, in the past couple of weeks, according to reports from Quetta.

In an interview aired on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi categorically said that Pakistan would not allow a new wave of Afghan refugees to settle on its land.

Prime Minister Imran Khan – in a separate interview to CNN – also expressed concerns about the possible influx of Afghan refugees in the event the Taliban government fails.

The BBC Urdu reported last week that Pakistan had already deported over 50 families. Other reports say more than 500 Afghan nationals have been detained from different parts of Balochistan.

High-level security meeting

Pakistan has received most of the displaced Afghans since August 15 from the Chaman crossing, though a few dozen also arrived from Torkham near Peshawar. While some of the Afghans continued to travel after entering Balochistan and ended their journey in Karachi, a majority stayed in the province.

Balochistan government held a high-level security meeting under Chief Secretary Mather Niaz Rana on Wednesday. Top police and intelligence officials participated including Inspector General Police (IGP) Mohammad Tahir Rai, Joint-Director Intelligence Bureau (IB) Dost Ali Baloch, and Special Secretary Interior Brigadier Abid. Commissioner Quetta Division and other administration officials were also present.

Reports said the meeting decided to take punitive action against anyone offering refuge to Afghan nationals – who have not been granted refugee status and, according to the authorities, will never be.

The chief secretary ordered the concerned officials to enhance surveillance at the international and provincial borders.

The meeting also decided that foreign nationals entering the country illegally would be arrested and prosecuted under the Foreigners Act.

Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told British newspaper The Independent that if the Taliban government failed it would result in anarchy and a humanitarian crisis. He said Pakistan would not allow more Afghan nationals to settle in Pakistan as it was already hosting close to four million refugees.

“We don’t have the capacity to absorb more … so our position is that they stay in Afghanistan and are provided security and safety and as things stand at the moment, I see no reason why they can’t stay in Afghanistan,” he said.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi urged the world to work with the Taliban government instead of rendering it an international pariah.

The words were echoed by Prime Minister Imran Khan in his interview to CNN. Khan said if the Taliban government collapsed there would be chaos, “the biggest humanitarian crisis, a huge refugee problem, [and an] unstable Afghanistan.”

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