The recent stance of the Supreme Court on the repatriation of illegal foreigners, particularly Afghan refugees, has sparked crucial concerns that delve into the heart of legal and constitutional considerations. Despite acknowledging international commitments, it is imperative to recognize that Pakistan is not a signatory to key refugee treaties, adding a layer of complexity to the issue.
Central to the discussion is the constitutional aspect, emphasizing that the right to life and liberty extends to individuals irrespective of nationality. A significant focus lies on the Court’s interpretation of the Citizenship Act 1951, particularly in Section 4, which grants nationality to those born in Pakistan. Equally pivotal is Section 5’s context, shedding light on parental nationality and clarifying eligibility for citizenship.
The challenge of repatriation is not exclusive to Pakistan, as other nations like Iran with Afghan refugees and Turkey with Syrians have undertaken substantial returns. However, the issue has become highly politicized, raising questions about the motivation behind the ‘vote bank’ strategy and concerns regarding the safeguarding of interests.
Caution is warranted in the judiciary’s role in inter-country matters, as past decisions have incurred significant financial losses. Navigating this issue demands a careful consideration of diplomatic implications and the adoption of a balanced approach.
The complexity of this matter requires a comprehensive understanding, encompassing legal, constitutional, and diplomatic facets beyond immediate political gains.
The decision of the interim regime in Pakistan to expel 1.7 million illegal aliens, predominantly Afghan refugees, has sparked criticism from various quarters, including the UN, the US, and the EU. This move comes as a surprising shift, given the prior condemnation of radical Islamists and militant groups such as the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban by these entities.
Despite Pakistan’s significant efforts, including the effective operations against foreign-sponsored proxies and the dismantling of the TTP and its affiliates in 2015, the country faced criticism rather than commendation. The origins of this criticism can be traced back to the alleged orchestration of “terrorism” by the US, aiming to manipulate it as a war tool for achieving broader objectives.
The departure of foreign troops from Afghanistan in August 2021 did not bring the expected relief to Pakistan’s western border. Instead, incidents of terrorism surged, intensifying each month, especially after the breakdown of secret peace talks with the TTP in November 2021. Pakistan, already grappling with multiple crises and an economic meltdown, found itself unable to afford the resurgence of terrorism, which it had successfully subdued at a high cost.
High-powered delegations visited Kabul to urge the interim regime to adhere to the Doha accord, close safe havens of the TTP in Eastern Afghanistan, and rein in the terrorist activities. However, these requests were turned down, with the interim regime denying any terrorism emanating from Afghan soil and asserting that Pakistan needed to address its internal issues.
As Pakistan faced worsening political, social, economic, judicial, constitutional, and security challenges, the army chief, Gen Asim Munir, and his team took steps to restore order through reforms and economic uplift programs. On the security front, it became apparent that illegal immigrants were contributing to the problem, and their expulsion was deemed necessary to control terrorism.
However, the decision faced opposition from traditional spoilers, including petitions filed in the Supreme Court to halt deportations. Pseudo-intellectuals and social media, possibly influenced by external powers, painted a dangerous scenario, suggesting that the decision might have long-term ill-effects and advising a more gradual process.
In the midst of this, the issue of Afghan refugees took a new turn with the return of 60,000 secular Afghans who had served occupiers loyally, seeking settlement in the US and Europe. Despite their questionable records, Western powers are advising Pakistan to handle the situation with prudence and humanity, seemingly oblivious to their own actions in other regions.
The article by Farrukh Hussain, titled “Afghans are no Outsiders to the Lands of Modern-Day Pakistan,” adds a different perspective. Hussain glorifies the historical role of Afghans and criticizes the army leadership, PM Kakar, and Interior Minister Sarfaraz Bugti, omitting crucial factors such as Afghan ingratitude, Soviet and Western forces’ barbarism, and the destabilizing role of external powers.
Pakistan has recently taken a strong stance against its northwestern neighbor by ordering the expulsion of illegal Afghanis who have been residing in Pakistan for over 40 years. Despite this move, the interim government faces criticism, with concerns raised about the potential negative outcomes for the country. Some argue that if Afghanistan maintains good relations with other neighbors, India, Middle Eastern Muslim countries, and other Muslim nations, the strained relationship with Pakistan must be due to faulty policies on the part of Islamabad.
Historically, Afghan rulers propagated the idea that regions like NWFP, FATA, and Pashtun-heavy parts of Baluchistan were part of Afghanistan. Some political and religious parties in Pakistan, as well as India, supported the Pakhtunistan movement. This hostility led to waves of Baloch insurgents seeking independence finding refuge in Kabul, with insurgencies actively supported.
Pakistan, desiring peaceful coexistence and following a policy of appeasement to keep its western border calm, never made territorial claims or instigated unrest in Afghanistan. However, during the Afghan Jihad in the 1980s, Afghan Pashtuns developed closeness with Pakistan, while non-Pashtun Afghans leaned towards Iran and India. The 20 years of the war on terror intensified animosity, with India exploiting the situation to foster deep-rooted hatred among Afghan Pashtuns against Pakistan.
RAW used subversion and indoctrination, similar to strategies employed in former East Pakistan, interior Sindh, interior Baluchistan, and KP/FATA. Iran fueled sectarianism to increase its influence in western and central Afghanistan. The wars in Afghanistan solidified the bond between Afghan and Pakistani Pashtuns, creating a nexus between TTA and the anti-Pakistan TTP.
Despite hosting millions of Afghan refugees since 1979, Pakistan’s bold stance supporting the Mujahideen’s covert war against the USSR, and facilitating the Taliban’s regroupment, Kabul seems to have forgotten Pakistan’s contributions. India, initially siding with the Soviets, later played a significant role in destabilizing the region by supporting the TTP and promoting movements like Greater Baluchistan and Greater Pashtunistan.
India’s objectives included isolating Pakistan, denuclearizing it, straining regional relations, undermining Gwadar, connecting Chahbahar with Afghanistan and Central Asia, and posing a military threat to Pakistan. Even after the exit of western forces and RAW, Pakistan’s western border remains insecure due to the availability of sophisticated weapons left behind, external funding, safe havens in Afghanistan, and the role of refugees and handlers.
To enhance the security of its western border, Pakistan needs to move beyond a one-sided appeasement policy. Concrete steps, such as the expulsion of illegal Afghan residents and curbing smuggling, mark a positive beginning. Strengthening border management and control systems is imperative for a more secure future.
US Embassy’s List of Afghan Individuals Poses Repatriation Hurdle Amidst Pakistan-US Relations
A significant obstacle has emerged in the repatriation of Afghan individuals, and it is not solely a matter concerning Afghanistan’s Interim Government or the Afghans themselves; rather, it is a chronic issue rooted in Pakistan-US relations. The US Embassy in Islamabad has presented a list of 25,000 Afghans, along with individuals from other countries, to the Pakistan Government, requesting a halt to their deportation.
These individuals, former employees on the US payroll during the occupation of Afghanistan, served as agents, informers, and translators. Originally intended to be settled in the US or Europe, their relocation got delayed due to resistance from their respective governments. The US, under a changed policy, deliberately kept these individuals in Pakistan, with the PDM government consenting during their tenure as an obligation for regime change.
This strategic move by the US serves a dual purpose. Firstly, by keeping these individuals in close proximity to Afghanistan, they continue to serve US interests, whether as informants or agents. Secondly, any misadventure or blame can conveniently be directed towards the Afghan Interim Government or regarded as routine accusations against all Afghans. Essentially, these individuals are acknowledged as US agents officially stationed in Pakistan.
However, the recent policy shift in Pakistan, focusing on repatriating all illegal foreigners, has escalated tensions. The US fears that these individuals, if repatriated to Afghanistan, may face execution for treason. This has prompted the US to delay their relocation for the past two years. With the current repatriation policy in effect, the urgency for a resolution has heightened.
For Pakistan, these individuals pose a substantial risk as trained agents of the US. Their potential use against the Afghan Taliban Government and Pakistan from within is a cause for concern. The US Ambassador is actively attempting to downplay the situation, suggesting a temporary continuation of their stay in Pakistan until relocation documentation processes are completed. However, Pakistan has yet to agree to this proposition, highlighting the historical complexity of such diplomatic matters.
As the standoff continues, it remains to be seen how long Pakistan can resist the pressure from the US, as the intricate dynamics of repatriation, intelligence interests, and regional stability come to the forefront.
Survival Imperative: Addressing the Afghan Refugee Challenge
In the quest for our survival, it is imperative to address the pressing issue of Afghan refugees within our borders. Drawing inspiration from Iran’s approach, it becomes evident that stringent measures, such as ensuring the presence of valid documents for all Afghans in the country, can be effective.
Afghanistan seems to harbor an expectation that Pakistan bears the perpetual responsibility of caring for these refugees. However, it is essential to question the feasibility of this expectation. The stark reality is that, to ensure our survival, we must proactively work towards repatriating Afghan refugees to their homeland.
Emulating the Iranian model, where Afghans are required to possess valid documentation, is a strategic step that aligns with our survival interests. This approach contributes to national security, economic stability, and social cohesion.
While the process of repatriation may pose challenges and encounter resistance, it is a crucial step we must take to safeguard our nation. The consequences of inaction could be severe, underscoring the necessity of a resolute stance in addressing this critical aspect of our national agenda.
Let us be prepared to face and navigate the challenges that may arise in the pursuit of repatriation, recognizing that the long-term benefits outweigh the immediate complexities.
For our survival, sending Afghanis back is not just an option; it is a necessity. We must be prepared to face all consequences in the pursuit of securing our future.
Mulla Yaqoob, the defense minister of Afghanistan, issued a threat regarding the potential dire consequences of evacuating illegal Afghans. It’s noteworthy that Mulla Yaqoob had lived and studied in a madrassa in Karachi. This information raises concerns about the nature of education and ideologies being propagated in certain madrassas, highlighting the need for scrutiny and evaluation of the content disseminated in these institutions.
Pakistan’s recent ultimatum to undocumented immigrants stands as a forceful and necessary response to pressing security concerns. The correct identification and screening of individuals are paramount for national security, and this ultimatum represents a resolute step in that direction.
The call for those without proper documentation to leave voluntarily or face imprisonment and deportation is a decisive move. It aligns with the broader objective of freeing up resources that can be redirected toward vital priorities such as infrastructure, healthcare, and education for legal residents. This strategic shift is poised to have a positive impact on Pakistan’s economy and the well-being of its citizens.
It’s crucial to recognize that while voluntary return is encouraged, many undocumented immigrants are in the country for economic reasons rather than as refugees. The ultimatum specifically targets individuals lacking valid reasons for their presence. Enforcing the law is non-negotiable, and essential for maintaining order, and upholding the integrity of our immigration system.
Acknowledging the potential challenges of a deportation operation, it is nonetheless indispensable for national security, resource allocation, and the preservation of the rule of law. Pakistan’s ultimatum reflects a firm stance, demonstrating determination and commitment to the principles on which our nation stands.
To delve deeper into the intricacies of the Pakistan-Afghan border crises, Chitral’s role in the Battle of Birkot, and Afghanistan’s broader context, explore the following articles: Pakistan-Afghan Border Crises, Chitral in the Battle of Birkot, Afghanistan.