The announcement of a deadline by the Pakistan government for over one million illegal foreign residents, including Afghan nationals, to leave the country has led to a strong reaction by the Taliban government. 

On Wednesday, the simmering tensions between the two countries led to unprovoked killing of two Pakistani nationals by the Afghan border force at the Chaman border crossing.Pakistani officials approached the Afghan authorities to ask about the reasons for indiscriminate firing at the Pak-Afghan border in Chaman, which resulted in the martyrdom of two nationals, including a 12-year-old child. Another child was injured.

Explaining the incident, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said, “On October 4 at 1600 hours, an Afghan sentry employed at Friendship Gate of Chaman border crossing along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Balochistan province, opened unprovoked and indiscriminate firing at pedestrians moving from Pakistan to Afghanistan.“It occurred at the outbound gate located on the Zero Line. Resultantly, two innocent Pakistani citizens, including a 12-year-old child, embraced Shahadat, while another child was injured. Pakistani troops exercised extreme restraint and avoided any exchange of fire in the presence of innocent passengers to avoid collateral damage.“Bodies of the deceased were shifted to DHQ Hospital Chaman and the injured boy, evacuated by the security forces, is under treatment. Afghan authorities have been approached to ask about the reason for such an irresponsible and reckless act, to apprehend and hand over the culprit to Pakistani authorities.”The ISPR said, “The interim Afghan government is also expected to exercise control over its troops and impart discipline to act responsibly to avoid the recurrence of such incidents in future. Pakistan remains committed to contributing towards peace, prosperity and development through positive and constructive bilateral relations; however, such unpleasant occurrences have the potential to harm the sincere intent and purpose.”In a related development, the interim Interior Minister Sarfaraz Bugti in his statement on social media site X said an elderly man and a child were martyred in the firing. He added it was initiated by the Afghan side. “Such incidents are not acceptable in any way. The Pakistani forces showed patience and tolerance on the unprovoked firing, and our soldiers avoided retaliatory firing due to the presence of civilians.“It is hoped that the Afghan government will take this incident seriously and ensure strict action,” he stated, adding that such incidents had a negative impact on bilateral relations.Earlier, a strong statement was issued by Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, who criticised Islamabad’s decision to expel undocumented Afghan nationals, termed it “unacceptable” and urged the Pakistani authorities to revisit the policy.In an undiplomatic statement on X, the Taliban spokesman said, “The behaviour of Pakistan against Afghan refugees is unacceptable. The Pakistani side should reconsider its plan. Afghan refugees are not involved in Pakistan’s security problems and they should tolerate them. As long as they leave Pakistan voluntarily, that country should tolerate them.”The Foreign Office did not respond officially to the strong statement issued by Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.Separately, Balochistan Caretaker Minister for Information Jan Achakzai said the Afghan refugees had only 27 days to leave the country. After the expiry of the deadline, strict action would be taken in case of non-compliance with the eviction order, he warned.Addressing a press conference at the Quetta Press Club, Achakzai said no international pressure would be accepted in this regard. He said that Afghan refugees had caused damage to the country, adding the crime ratio would drop after the expulsion of Afghan refugees.He said: “From January 2023 till now, 24 suicide attacks had been carried out in the country,” adding that six attackers involved in an attack at a check-post in Qila Saifullah were Afghans, while three attackers on Zhob Cantt attack were also Afghans.As the clock is ticking for the Afghan refugees in Pakistan, the implications of the decision were poised to reverberate both nationally and internationally with humanitarian concerns at the forefront of the discourse, he added.Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in its statement said the Pakistan government’s decision to evict over one million ‘illegal’ foreign residents within 30 days, allegedly because they had links with terrorist and criminal groups, reflected not only an absence of compassion but also a myopic and narrow view of national security.“The large majority of such people are vulnerable Afghan refugees and stateless persons for whom Pakistan has been home for several generations. It is unacceptable to hold them to account for the wrongs of a select few. They have a moral right to seek refuge in this country and to be treated with dignity and empathy. This decision also contravenes international human rights law and must be reversed immediately.”The HRCP intends to lobby strongly with the government for this decision to be reversed and for Pakistan to sign the 1951 Refugee Convention.


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2023-10-05

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