ISLAMABAD: The final date for voluntary repatriation of all Afghans, both illegal immigrants and the registered refugees, is over and Pakistan will treat the Afghans as illegal immigrants from today barring those who had valid travel documents.
“From today, Pakistan and Afghanistan are two separate countries,” a political pundit quipped.
The Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions, Lt-General ® Abdul Qadir Baloch, had already declared in an interview with the Iranian news agency IRNA that the UN registered refugees would be treated as ‘illegal immigrants’ if they fail to leave this country voluntarily.
The security establishment had taken a very firm and unwavering stand on this issue and disapproved the earlier Central Government decision to extend the stay of Afghan refugees for the whole year obliging the political allies or the coalition partners.
More than a million Afghans are residing in and around the Provincial Capital of Quetta posing a serious security threat to the lives of local residents irrespective of their ethnicity.
The reason is that in most cases of terrorism, Afghans were found involved, mainly the suicide attacks on security forces, police and also on soft targets. The Spokesman of the Armed Forces, off and on, suggested earlier repatriation of all the Afghans, both refugees and illegal immigrants, purely for security reasons.
The people of Balochistan, in general, support this demand primarily for security reasons. However, they are a huge burden on the weak and unstable economy as they are plundering the national wealth of this country at the cost of the local residents in KPK and Balochistan.
During a random visit to any major Government Hospital in Quetta, we will find more than 80 per cent patients are Afghans and they are using medical facilities of this country as a matter of right which is unfair and unjust.
The Government had established a network of hospitals and spending billions for its citizens and not the foreigners, mainly the illegal immigrants who cross the borders at will.
The Afghans are occupying millions of jobs in Pakistan on which they have no right. With their repatriation, those jobs will be available to local residents improving the economy providing tens of thousands job to jobless people.
Pakistan and its people had served millions of Afghans on our soil with full commitment and purely on humanitarian grounds. On their repatriation, both the Government and the people of Pakistan desire to send them back with usual honour and dignity.
However, they have missed the bus by staying back in Pakistan after the deadline reached between the Government of Pakistan and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Both the parties agreed to extend their stay in Pakistan till December 31, 2017. The deadline for voluntary repatriation is over now they may face laws of the land for violating the agreement with their unwanted presence.
Strangely, the Government, both at the centre and in provinces, is unmoved and visibly found un-nerved over the issue probably fearing a reprisal from the international community.
At the same time, the Government is facing tremendous pressure from the local residents from all over Pakistan, barring a few pro-Kabul politicians, demanding earlier repatriation of all Afghans without any discrimination.
There should be no soft attitude towards the illegal immigrants crossing the international frontiers at will and joining the huge market of the jobless people in Pakistan. This process had not been stopped for the past many decades and presumably for political reasons.
A general look at the vendors all over Pakistan, most of the vending carts are owned by the Afghans in all the major cities of Pakistan, including, Lahore, Karachi, Hyderabad and Rawalpindi. The army of vendors had invaded Pakistan from Afghanistan.
Pakistan and its people are not responsible for the difficulties and suffering of Afghans and backwardness of the country as a whole. There is no sense to allow the Afghans to leave their country and come to Pakistan for better economic prospects.
By all means, they are economic refugees and coming to Pakistan for better economic opportunities. The economic opportunities should be reserved for the citizens of Pakistan only and not the foreigners. The Government is yet to concede this right of the Pakistani citizens.
The Government will have to close this chapter once for all allowing Afghans to enter Pakistan with valid travel documents only. It is possible only when the Government discourages the constant influx of Afghans to Pakistan by disallowing them to engage in gainful employment on any pretext. When they are denied job, they will definitely go back home.
The illegal immigrants should be rounded up from all major population centres and taken to close to the Afghan border where they should be lodged in barbed wire camps till their repatriation to Afghanistan.
Iran is at ease while dealing with the Afghans as they are all confined to barbed wire camps under strictly security and not allowed to move out. On the contrary, Afghans in this country were allowed to leave their camps and they never returned. The Government is unconcerned on such a vital security issue.
Late Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo, the most visionary politician of this land, resented when the then Government of General Ziaul Haq allowed Afghans to Pakistan and given them safe refuge against the will of the people.
To this, he reacted strongly and suggested that tomorrow; the Armed Forces of Pakistan can expel these unwanted Afghans from Pakistan. It will be beyond the powers of the Provincial Governments to take action, late Bizenjo told newsmen in a Press talk.
The Government considered Afghans as ‘strategic assets’ during the days of General Ziaul Haq and now they are a ‘security risk’ for Pakistan and their peace-loving people. Politicians in any garb should stop defending the ‘security risk’ to Pakistan and its people and stop undermining the legitimate economic interests of people in their own country.