Around 200,000 Afghan refugees return from Pakistan: Kabul

ISTANBUL: At least 200,000 Afghan refugees have returned to the war-torn nation from Pakistan since Nov. 1, a spokesman for the interim Afghan administration told Anadolu.

Suhail Shaheen, who is also Taliban admin’s nominee to the UN, told Anadolu: “By estimates, some 200,000 Afghans have returned.”

Shaheen, however, said he cannot confirm the exact number of refugees who have returned to Afghanistan since Nov. 1.

Pakistan had set Nov. 1 as a deadline for undocumented foreigners to leave the South Asian nation. Nearly one million people are targeted under what Islamabad calls the “Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan.” The UN has urged Islamabad to halt such plans.

Convoys of Afghan refugees made beelines on their way back to Afghanistan and the interim Taliban administration has set up two main camps on their side of the border in Torkham and Spin Boldak.

Shaheen, who is a member of a media commission to oversee the repatriation of refugees to Afghanistan, said: “There are thousands of Afghan refugees facing forcible expulsion from Pakistan and their properties are taken from them unlawfully, unfortunately.”

At least 12 committees have been set up by the Taliban. They have installed tents inside the Afghan territory for the incoming people.

Shaheen said Afghan businessmen and the war-torn nation’s diaspora have come forward to help the Taliban administration.

“The incoming Afghans will be settled in their native provinces, townships, and cities,” Shaheen said.

On Pakistan’s accusations of outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) operating from Afghanistan, Shaheen said the innocent refugees have nothing to do with the TTP.

“Security forces of Pakistan have to deal with them (TTP) and attacks by the TTP are launched from inside Pakistan,” he claimed.

Shaheen called the eviction of the undocumented refugees from Pakistan “pressure tactics used against Taliban.”

“Pakistan should treat Afghanistan on equal basis … on the basis of brotherhood,” he said, adding: “Pressure does not work.”

He said the 12 committees formed by the Taliban are responding to the needs of the returning refugees.

“There is a need for medicines, tents, food, and drinking water. Then comes resettlement and construction of houses for the refugees. It needs funds,” he said.

Islamabad said it has no plan to extend the deadline and all undocumented foreigners would be deported regardless of their nationality.

Pakistan has been hosting a large number of Afghan refugees since the 1979 Soviet invasion of its northern neighbour.

According to the UN Human Rights Office, more than 2 million undocumented Afghans were living in Pakistan, including at least 600,000 who left Afghanistan after the Taliban returned to power in August 2021.


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