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Repatriating Afghan migrants: Its implications

As per official sources, Pakistan hosts more than 1.7 million Afghan refugees in total. However, their influx in Pakistan dates back to host of events in Afghanistan like war against the Soviet Union in 1980, supporting Afghan Mujahideen backed by United States of America, debacle of 9/11 and America’s war against terrorism and return of Taliban in Kabul in 2021.
The latest announcement of the repatriation of undocumented Afghans from Pakistan looks too early and in haste that will probably have glaring implications on Pakistan in socio-political and security perspective. Most of the Afghan settled here are an economic migrants who took refuge in Pakistan in the wake of Soviet occupation, civil war in Afghanistan and war on terror after the 9/11 attack on America’s twin towers.
According to the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) monthly report in September, terrorist attacks in Pakistan have increased, with 136 people killed, 144 injured in 65 militant attacks across the country in September alone. It will be horrific to assume and put forth the data of colossal damage incurred by terrorist attacks through back 9/11. As per Unofficial statistics, thousands of people had been martyred and billions of rupees loss occurred.
Developing country like Pakistan is heavily prone to these terrorist attacks. So, it is pertinent to mention here that sense must prevail while formulating internal and external policy which is closely linked with our state’s geo-political and geo-economic interest. That sense is direly missing in recent announcement of repatriation of Afghan refugees. Presumably, this decision has multitudes of impacts in coming days.
For instance, it may surge our security concern, may increase suicide attacks in tribal region of KPK and Balochistan, likely to volatile the border security, may causes skirmishes between Pakistan and Taliban forces at the western border and may disturb internal security.
Moreover, a number of protests have been witnessed in the parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan in the solidarity of afghan refugees. However, state policy is categorically against the settlement of illegal refugees residing in the country which it feels are the security concern as well as economic burden on the state resources. The point of discussion here is that either afghan refugees living in Pakistan are security concern or their repatriation will bring forth problems for the country in political and security arena. Mishap has already been created by this untimely announcement of repatriation and it sense lack of coherent policy regarding refugees.
Above all, nascent Taliban regime is facing the issues of poverty, hunger and lack of resources which is unfavorable to keep the huge refugees influx back in Afghanistan and to nourish them. Taliban regime shows apprehension to the decision made in Islamabad regarding sending back refugees forcibly from Pakistan. It is crystal clear that relations between Taliban regime and Pakistan will deteriorate in this context.
Previously, both the countries are at loggerhead over TTP sanctuary in Afghanistan and Taliban reluctance to operate against the perpetrators of the terrorist activities inside Pakistan. However, Taliban regime has blatantly denied this allegation of Pakistan regarding safe haven of TTP operators in Kabul.
Lately, the spokesman of Interim Afghan Government IAG, Zabiullah Mujahid issued a statement that “problem of the TTP belongs to Pakistan, not the Afghans. If they (TTP) try to use Afghan soil, we will not allow it.” This is an ambiguous statement, contradicting the basic theme of the IAG. No doubt, TTP is an issue of Pakistan, why successive governments including Taliban-led IAG have been providing them with hide-outs and shelter on Afghan soil. They are still operating against Pakistan from Afghan soil despite very tight control of Taliban IAG all over Afghanistan. Without consent of IAG, there is no chance that TTP or any other anti-Pakistan militant group can operate against Pakistan from Afghan soil.”
Both governments sitting at Kabul and Islamabad must take initiative to boost up the confidence building measures CBMs like, welcoming the refugees stranded, neutralizing the threat of terrorism in both countries, reducing hostility on the border, stopping smuggling and black marketing infiltration and improving cultural contacts. This should be not at the cost of national interest and territorial integrity.
No doubt, militant operating from afghan soil against Pakistan is the major concern of Pakistan to go with repatriation decision of refugees who are illegally residing here in the country and are unable to produce the valid documentation. However, untimely decision taken against the repatriation of undocumented refugees has contrasting implication both in positive and negative manner.

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