Asia - Pacific

1.5 million Afghan refugees not burden for Pakistan: Jailed former Premier Imran Khan

Pakistan gave 1-month deadline for undocumented foreigners to leave by Nov. 1

Amir Latif Arain  | 08.12.2023 - Update : 08.12.2023
1.5 million Afghan refugees not burden for Pakistan: Jailed former Premier Imran Khan

KARACHI, Pakistan 

Pakistan’s jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan added his voice Thursday to criticism from human rights groups about the expulsion of illegal Afghan refugees from the country. 

“1.5 million refugees are not much of a burden for a nation of 250 million people. There is a fear of a permanent rift in the long-standing relationship between the two countries, considering the way Afghan refugees are being expelled,” Khan, who is currently languishing a jail in the northeastern garrison city of Rawalpindi, wrote on X.

Pakistan gave a one-month deadline in October for all undocumented foreigners to leave by Nov. 1 or face forcible expulsion.

Afghanistan, the UN, Amnesty International and other organizations have opposed Islamabad’s decision to evict the undocumented refugees and said the return must be voluntary and without any pressure.

Khan observed that Pakistan and Afghanistan are brotherly and neighboring countries, whose people are bound in centuries-old relations.

“Pakistan has hosted Afghan refugees for 40 years but the fruits of this years-long hospitality are being wasted just because of a poor strategy, “ wrote Khan.

He warned that the forced expulsion of the refugees may result in a permanent rift in relations between the neighboring countries.

Khan urged the government to revisit the policy and adopt a “respectful” strategy to repatriate Afghan refugees.

Nearly 500,000 undocumented Afghan refugees have left Pakistan in the last month, according to the Afghan interim government.

The latest UN figures indicate that 1.3 million Afghans enjoy the status of registered refugees, while 880,000 have legal status to stay in Pakistan.​​​​​​​

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