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Pakistan threatens to expel 1.73 million Afghan refugees; Taliban condemned it as “Unacceptable”

Islamabad, Pakistan, October 05:   Pakistan’s government has issued an order demanding the immediate departure of all illegal 1.73 million Afghan refugees residing in the country, creating new tensions with the Taliban regime in Kabul. The decision comes in response to recent security concerns, with Pakistani authorities revealing that 14 out of 24 suicide bombings in the nation this year were perpetrated by Afghan nationals.

The Pakistani Interior Minister, Sarfraz Bugti, announced the directive on Tuesday, setting a deadline of November 1 for voluntary departures. Those who fail to comply will face forcible expulsion. However, it remains uncertain how authorities will identify and ensure the departure of these immigrants.

Bugti stated that the Afghan nationals residing in Pakistan lacked the necessary legal documentation, with a total of 4.4 million Afghan refugees currently residing in Pakistan. He asserted, “There are no two opinions that we are attacked from within Afghanistan, and Afghan nationals are involved in attacks on us. We have evidence.”

The strained relations between Islamabad and Kabul reached a new low following border clashes between the two neighboring South Asian nations last month. The situation has been further exacerbated by a recent increase in violence, including two suicide bombings targeting religious gatherings, which claimed the lives of at least 57 people. While the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a local Taliban faction, denied involvement, Bugti identified one of the suicide bombers as an Afghan national.

In addition to TTP, the region has witnessed the presence of the Islamic State operating in the Afghan border areas, contributing to instability in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s military has conducted multiple offensives against Islamist militants, primarily in the mountainous regions along the Afghan border. Islamabad alleges that these militants utilize Afghan soil for training and planning attacks within Pakistan, an accusation vehemently denied by Kabul.

As of now, there has been no immediate response from the Afghan government regarding Bugti’s announcement.

In a swift response, a spokesperson for the Taliban regime in Kabul condemned Pakistan’s threat to forcibly expel Afghan immigrants as “unacceptable.” The spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, stated, “The behavior of Pakistan towards Afghan refugees is unacceptable. Afghan refugees are not involved in Pakistan’s security problems. As long as they leave Pakistan voluntarily, that country should tolerate them.”

The ultimatum issued by Pakistan has created uncertainty and concern among Afghan immigrants, many of whom have resided in the country for years. It comes at a time when relations between Pakistan and the Taliban regime in Kabul have significantly deteriorated, with recent border clashes temporarily closing the primary trade route between the two nations.

Pakistan’s accusations of Afghan soil being used for training and planning attacks remain a contentious point in their relationship, with the Taliban consistently denying such allegations and emphasizing that Pakistan’s security concerns are domestic in nature.

With a caretaker government in place since August, guiding Pakistan through to anticipated elections, the military has gained increased influence amidst the country’s ongoing uncertainty and instability.

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