Pakistani politician criticizes Afghan refugees’ expulsion decision

A senior politician from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Afrasiab Khatak, has slammed his government’s decision to expel over 1.7 million unregistered refugees from Afghanistan and said it is in violation of international human rights.

Khatak, who served as a member of the Senate in the Pakistan parliament from 2009 to 2014, told Amu that the Pakistani military prevented a civil gathering organized by the Awami National Party in support of the refugees.

Pakistan’s caretaker government announced a November 1 deadline for all unregistered refugees from Afghanistan to leave the country. Failing to do so, will result in them being arrested and deported.

This affects about 1.73 million people from Afghanistan – hundreds of thousands of whom fled to the neighboring country following the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021.

This decision has drawn sharp criticism by refugees and rights watchdogs around the world, and by senior politicians in Pakistan.

“Yesterday [Tuesday], we came together in Islamabad and we demanded to speak with the government of Pakistan and follow up this issue through the human rights measures,” Khatak said.  “The police came and told us that we cannot hold this gathering. They besieged our gathering for two hours and prevented it.”

In addition, footage received by Amu shows Pakistani police raiding an educational center for refugees from Afghanistan. Five teachers, all Afghanistan nationals, were detained.

Abdul Ghafar Ibrahimi, one of the five detainees, criticized the Pakistani police for mistreating the refugees and said police sparked panic among the students during the raid.

“They [police] took me with four other teachers to the police center. We were detained for six hours and then released by a guarantee bill pledged by a Pakistani journalist for 48 hours,” he said.

Ibrahimi said that because of lack of sufficient time, the refugees are unable to provide legal documents for themselves.

Ahmad Shah who worked as a cameraman for private media organizations in Afghanistan, said he fled to Pakistan to wait for his humanitarian visa for Europe – all while the Taliban tightens its restrictions on the media and journalists in the country.

Ahmad Shah said despite being in possession of a valid visa for Pakistan, police arrested him on Tuesday and only released him hours later after interrogating him.

“They asked for documents and took my phone. Then they told me my documents were fake and asked me questions. ‘From where do you receive money? What are you doing? Why have you come to Pakistan?” he told Amu.

Since the deadline was announced, the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation under Taliban control, said that approximately 20,000 Afghans have been forcefully deported by Pakistan through Torkham and Spin Boldak crossings.

The Taliban’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, has called on  Pakistan to reconsider its decision.