Bugti to ‘illegal’ immigrants: Exit Pakistan by Nov 1 or face law

ISLAMABAD: Interim Interior Minister Sarfaraz Bugti on Tuesday declared that the caretaker federal government set November 1,2023 as deadline for illegal immigrants  to leave Pakistan voluntarily, warning that stern action will be taken against those found residing in the country unlawfully after the deadline. “Pakistan is the only country permitting entry of people even without a passport,” Minister Sarfaraz Bugti decried while addressing a press conference in Islamabad after a meeting of the apex committee on the national action plan and eliminating terrorism. Bugti further said that a task force has also been constituted which will take action against illegal immigrants. “Assets owned by illegal immigrants would be confiscated and a web portal is being established to report any illegal activity related to smuggling”, he informed. Sarfraz Bugti elaborated that the names of those who provide any information related to illegal activities would be kept secret. Bugti stressed that the caretaker government’s priority was ensuring the safety of Pakistani citizens. The announcement comes after a deadly suicide blast claimed the lives of at least 60 people in Balochistan’s Mastung and left several others injured last Friday. That same day at least five people were killed in a blast inside a mosque at Hangu Police Lines in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Bugti apprised that Afghan nationals were found to be responsible for at least 14 of the 24 suicide bombings in the country this past year. Illegal immigrants should leave before November 1 or they would face forcible expulsion, he said. The minister further warned that businesses being run by illegal migrants would be confiscated. All law enforcement agencies are being mobilised to eliminate terrorism and ensure the exit of illegal foreigners, he stressed Caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi also confirmed the deadline on a post on X, formerly Twitter. The minister stated that, “All illegal immigrants have 28 days to leave Pakistan.”   Task force constituted at Apex Committee’s meeting Earlier in the day, the apex committee of the National Action Plan (NAP), expressing resolve to expel illegal foreign residents and take strict action against their businesses and properties, constituted a task force to scrutinise and do away with fake identity cards and business activities.   The committee, which met in Islamabad under the chairmanship of Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar, also decided to widen the scope of ongoing action against illegal activities like drug smuggling, hoarding, smuggling of currency and eatables, illegal money transfer and power theft, a PM Office press release said. Attended by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir, relevant federal ministers, provincial chief ministers and heads of civil and military law enforcement agencies, the apex committee decided that movement at the border would be subject to the passport and visa, in a view to document the processes. The task force that would work under the interior ministry would help scrutinise the fake identity cards, businesses and properties in order to get rid of the same. The participants of the meeting reviewed the internal security situation in the country with a view to overcome the challenges durably. They resolved that despite all odds, the government would ensure implementation of the Constitution and the law as per the public aspirations. The forum reiterated that the use of force was only the state’s mandate and no individual or group would be allowed to use the same. Besides, there was no room for armed political organisations or groups and the people involved in such activities would be dealt away with strictly. In the meeting, it was also highlighted that Islam was a religion of peace and the state would never allow anyone to interpret the religion just to serve own political interests. “The rights and religious freedom of the minorities were the component of Islam and Constitution of Pakistan and the state would ensure their provision,” it said. The apex committee stressed that those spreading propaganda and disinformation should be dealt with strictly under cyber laws. The participants were informed that technical procedures were being devised for the awareness and implementation of the laws, which were being promulgated keeping in view the observance of the law and the convenience of the people. The forum reiterated its resolve that the principles of faith, unity and discipline would be followed in the true spirit and tireless efforts would be continued for the development of the country. 1,000 Afghans detained in past two weeks In a statement posted on X, Afghanistan’s embassy said more than 1,000 Afghans were detained in the past two weeks — half of them despite having a legal right to be in Pakistan. “Despite the repeated promises of the Pakistan authorities, the arrest and harassment of Afghan refugees by the police in Pakistan continues,” it said.   Reacting to the interior minister’s announcement on Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Qaisar Khan Afridi told Turkish news outlet Anadolu Agency that “any refugee return must be voluntary and without any pressure to ensure protection for those seeking safety.” “We have seen disconcerting press reports about a plan to deport undocumented Afghans and we are seeking clarity from our government partners,” he was quoted as saying by the report. Afridi urged the government, which he said was “generously hosting refugees for more than 40 years”, to institute a mechanism to ensure that Afghans with international protection were not deported. He pointed out that it must be kept in mind that those fleeing persecution often did not have the necessary documents and travel permissions. Afridi asserted that the UNHCR was ready to support the government in developing a mechanism to manage and register people in need of international protection on its territory and respond to “particular vulnerabilities”. “Pakistan has remained a generous refugee host for decades. This role has been acknowledged globally but more needs to be done to match its generosity,” he was quoted as saying.

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