Pakistan’s Supreme Court grapples with Afghan refugee expulsion challenge amidst rising tensions

Pakistan’s Supreme Court commenced hearings on Friday regarding a petition filed by rights activists, aiming to impede the deportation of Afghan refugees, disclosed a legal representative.

This development unfolds as authorities intensify efforts to locate and repatriate thousands residing in refugee settlements.

UN figures show that nearly 400,000 Afghan migrants have been repatriated to Afghanistan since mid-September.

“With the urgency of thousands suffering daily, I’ve requested the court to expedite the case as early as next week,” expressed Umar Ijaz Gilani, the attorney representing the rights activists, as quoted by Reuters.

The three-judge panel overseeing the case has summoned explanations from the government, interior (home) and foreign ministries, along with a consortium of government and top military officials, the lawyer confirmed.

Many Afghans have sought refuge underground in Pakistan to evade deportation, fearing peril upon return to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan following the abrupt withdrawal of U.S.-led Western forces in 2021.

Gilani clarified that children born to Afghan families in Pakistan are exempt from deportation due to birthright considerations.

This petition, presented on Friday, is distinct from another, solely dedicated to securing Pakistani citizenship for such children, as enshrined in the South Asian nation’s constitution, he added.

Pakistan shelters more than 4 million Afghan migrants and refugees, with approximately 1.7 million lacking proper documentation. A significant influx occurred after the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan in 2021, joining a substantial population present since the Soviet invasion of the neighboring nation in 1979.

Pakistani authorities, beginning in the southern port city of Karachi, have conducted door-to-door searches in refugee settlements to locate those who haven’t left voluntarily. Those remaining are being compelled to depart.

Despite appeals from international bodies and refugee agencies, Islamabad has not reconsidered its deportation plans.