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Nov 1 deadline applies to all illegal foreign nationals: interior minister

Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti addressing a press conference in Islamabad, in this undated image. — YouTube/GeoNews
Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti addressing a press conference in Islamabad, in this undated image. — YouTube/GeoNews

The November 1 deadline applies to all illegal foreigners and is not limited to Afghan citizens, caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti said Wednesday.

The interior minister's remarks came during a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior. The security czar clarified that the government wanted all illegal refugees to exit Pakistan, not just Afghans.

The caretaker government, earlier this month, had directed all "aliens" — including 1.73 million Afghan nationals — to leave the country following a series of terrorist attacks in which Afghan nationals were found to be responsible for 14 of 24 suicide bombings.

"Government's message [to leave the country] is not limited to Afghans, [it is applicable] on all illegal foreigners living in the country," Bugti said.

"The message was wrongly received as if the state wanted to repatriate only Afghan citizens," he added while reiterating that the government's policy applies equally to all "aliens" living in the country illegally.

The government is also deporting Baloch people coming into the country from Iran, Bugti said while reassuring that those with refugee cards and visas are "our guests".

The issue is being given an ethnic angle, it's not like that at all as we intend to expel all illegal foreigners, he stressed.

Illegal foreigners to leave Pakistan by Nov 1

In a bid to tighten the noose around illegal "foreigners", the caretaker government has set November 1 as a deadline for the immigrants residing in the country unlawfully, warning that action will be taken against them after the time limit.

The decision was taken in an apex committee meeting on the National Action Plan (NAP) on October 3 after a deadly suicide blast in Balochistan’s Mastung, in which over 60 people lost their lives. In most of the recent terror incidents in Pakistan, Afghan nationals or soil was reportedly used.

According to a statistical report released by the independent think tank Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS), at least 271 militant attacks took place during the first half of 2023, resulting in the loss of 389 lives and injuring 656 individuals. Terror activities in the country soared by 79% during the period.

The United Nations (UN) has also said that refugees residing in Pakistan should be allowed to exit the country voluntarily and no pressure should be exerted on them.

Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghan refugees since the Soviet Union’s invasion in 1979.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) data, approximately 1.33 million registered refugees hold Proof of Registration (PoR) cards, and 840,000 possess Afghan citizenship cards.