As Pakistan embarks on a nationwide campaign to address foreign nationals residing in the country without proper documentation, thousands of Afghans find themselves caught in the midst of a challenging situation. Over the past two months, a significant number of Afghans have chosen to return to Afghanistan, raising concerns over their future, safety, and the Taliban’s governance.
Abdullah, one of those affected, shared his story at a petrol station in Punjab province. With a heavy heart, he revealed that he had organized transportation for his entire family of 22 members, 20 of whom were born in Pakistan. He emphasized the lack of job opportunities in Afghanistan and the pain of leaving the home they had built and cherished. Abdullah expressed frustration over the Pakistani government’s role in compelling their departure.
The Pakistan government reported that approximately 200,000 Afghan nationals have already left the country before the 1st of November deadline, with daily returnee numbers tripling their usual rate. Notably, the government’s stance is to target those lacking documentation, emphasizing that the policy aims solely at those residing in Pakistan illegally. Nevertheless, concerns persist over the treatment of Afghan nationals with recognized identity documents.
Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have criticized the deportation policy, citing issues with registration processes that hinder the acquisition of valid identity documents. Additionally, concerns center around the safety of vulnerable groups, such as women, girls, journalists, and minorities, upon their return. While assurances from government officials have been made, such as non-enforcement against these groups, some individuals show slips provided by UNHCR, which are not yet officially recognized by Pakistani authorities.
Pakistan remains committed to implementing its deportation policy, with the government initiating the establishment of processing centers throughout the country to handle detainees before deportation. The policy promises special consideration for the elderly, children, and women. The government has defended its position, emphasizing its history of providing refuge to millions of Afghan nationals over the past four decades.
However, concerns loom over the potential impact of thousands of deportees on Afghanistan’s already fragile economy. The country’s economic situation worsened when the Taliban assumed power in 2021, with foreign funds frozen. The unemployment rate has more than doubled, and a significant portion of the population requires humanitarian aid. Against this backdrop, the forced return of Afghan nationals could exacerbate an already dire situation.
Despite the Taliban’s announcement of an amnesty for those who worked for international forces, fear remains widespread among those facing deportation. Reports of alleged killings of former government officials and armed force members have added to the climate of apprehension. The uncertain future, lack of legal documents, and concerns about their children’s education weigh heavily on the minds of those affected.
In summary, Pakistan’s mass deportation policy has thrust thousands of Afghan nationals into uncertainty, amid an already precarious economic situation in Afghanistan and persistent security fears. The international community remains vigilant in monitoring the evolving situation and its humanitarian impact.