The Pakistan government has decided to go ahead with its controversial plan to evict all illegal immigrants -- including around 1.7 million Afghan refugees-- from the country by October 31, saying that the decision was in line with international practices, according to a media report.
The move came as law enforcement agencies continued their crackdown on people they call ‘illegal aliens’, a sizeable number of families have been crossing the border into Afghanistan over the past week.
“No country allows illegal people to live in their country whether it is Europe, whether it is countries in Asia, in our neighbourhood. So, accordingly, this is in line with the international practice that we have taken this decision,” caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani was quoted as saying to Hong Kong's Phoenix TV in an interview on the sidelines of a forum in Tibet.
Pakistan’s decision to ask illegal immigrants to leave by October 31 or face forcible expulsion from November 1 has drawn criticism, with organisations such as UNHCR and Amnesty International calling on the government to rethink its plans. The Taliban government in Kabul has also expressed its reservations over the move.
“Whenever there was any problem, people would immigrate to Pakistan, take refuge in Pakistan,” Jilani said.
“But now I think it has been more than 40 years, so the government of Pakistan has taken a decision,” he said, noting that the situation in Afghanistan had stabilised.
The caretaker foreign minister said Pakistan had been discussing the migrant issue with Afghanistan “for a very long time” and called on international humanitarian agencies to help with the process.
Separately, speaking to reporters on Friday evening, caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi called on all foreign nationals illegally residing in Punjab to depart voluntarily, saying that provincial authorities had collected initial data on foreign residents.
He was stern in his warning, saying that any foreigner found staying unlawfully in the province would not be permitted to remain, and stressed that illegal immigrants should leave Punjab of their own accord. In case they didn’t, he cautioned, a comprehensive crackdown would ensue.
However, the caretaker Punjab Chief Minister assured that no one would be abused in this process.
Earlier, Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said that the expulsion plan would be carried out in phases, according to Dawn.
Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.