Taliban calls on Islamabad to review plan to deport 1.7 million refugees from Afghanistan

People waiting to cross the Torkham crossing to Pakistan. File photo

The Taliban has called on Islamabad to review its plans to deport 1.7 million refugees from Afghanistan, stating that undocumented migrants are not involved in the security problems plaguing Pakistan.

The Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Wednesday on X, formerly Twitter: “The behavior of Pakistan against Afghan refugees is unacceptable. The Pakistani side should reconsider its plan.”

This comes a day after Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti announced plans to deport all illegal immigrants, including 1.7 million undocumented refugees from Afghanistan.

Addressing a press conference, Bugti said 14 of the 24 suicide bombings in the country this year were carried out by attackers from Afghanistan. He added that eight of the 11 militants who recently raided two Pakistani military installations were from Afghanistan.

In response to Bugti’s accusations, Mujahid said: “Afghan refugees are not involved in Pakistan’s security problems,” and that Pakistan “should tolerate them”.

Islamabad’s announcement marks a new low in its relations with Kabul which have steadily deteriorated over the past few months. The Pakistani government claims that a spate of attacks in Pakistan have largely been carried out by Taliban-allied militants, primarily the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who go back and forth across the countries’ shared border and who are believed to have taken refuge in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday evening, the Taliban reported three people, including two children, were wounded earlier in the day at Spin Boldak crossing in Kandahar province when Pakistani border forces allegedly opened fire. The Taliban gave no further details.

However, Pakistani media reported that two Pakistanis, including a 12-year-old child, were killed when Taliban guards opened fire on pedestrians at the crossing.

Citing ISPR, Pakistan’s media stated the incident occurred “when the Afghan sentry opened unprovoked and indiscriminate firing at pedestrians moving from Pakistan to Afghanistan. Another child got injured in the incident.”

Taliban authorities have reportedly been asked to investigate the incident and hand the shooter over to Pakistan.

Pakistan has received the largest influx of refugees from Afghanistan since the former Soviet Union’s invasion of Kabul in 1979. Over the years, the numbers have steadily risen, with a sharp rise in the past two years, following the Taliban’s takeover.

Bugti’s announcement meanwhile comes after civil and military leaders met Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister and army chief to discuss the security situation following the recent spate of militant attacks.

However, he said more than 1.4 million refugees from Afghanistan residing in Pakistan are documented while another 850,000 are legal card holders and that the crackdown is not aimed at them.

TTP-led attacks have killed more than 750 civilians and security forces in Pakistan between January and October this year, which is a 19% increase compared with the previous year.

The United Nations and human rights groups have expressed concerns over Pakistan’s plans to evict refugees from Afghanistan, saying those facing deportations include hundreds of thousands who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban reclaimed control of the country in August 2021.