Mass Deportation of Afghan Refugees from Pakistan

Mass Deportation of Afghan Refugees from Pakistan

Afghans Mass Deportation from Pakistan | DailyWriteups | Opinions

The following article, “Mass Deportation of Afghan Refugees from Pakistan”, is written by Safina Naz, a student of Sir Syed Kazim Ali. Moreover, the article is written on the same pattern, taught by Sir to his students, scoring the highest marks in compulsory subjects for years. Sir Kazim has uploaded his students’ solved past paper questions so other thousands of aspirants can understand how to crack a topic or question, how to write relevantly, what coherence is, and how to include and connect ideas, opinions, and suggestions to score the maximum.

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Outline

1- Introduction 

2-History of Afghan refugees in Pakistan

3-What is Pakistan’s layout of the Illegal Foreigner Repatriation Plan (IFRP)?

  • ✓Deporting unregistered Afghans in phase one
  • ✓Deporting Afghan Citizen Card (ACC) holders in phase two
  • ✓ Deporting Afghans containing Proof of Registration (PoR) cards in phase three  

4-Why has Pakistan decided to give the plan of deportation of Afghan refugees?

  • ✓Increasing criminal activities on the border
  • ✓Worsening dispute with Afghanistan over Tahreek-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)

5-What will be the impacts of mass repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan?

  • Positive impacts 
    • Decreasing insurgency
    • Decreasing crime rate
    • Strengthening the country’s security
  • ✓Negative impacts
    • Worsening relations with Afghanistan 
    • Decreasing transit and cross-border trade of Pakistan with Afghanistan
    • Increasing risk of labour crisis in the country

6-What are the pragmatic ways to deal with Afghan refugees?

  • ✓By capacity building of security forces
  • ✓By making the visa process easy and corruption-free  
  • ✓By regulating Afghans that are contributing to the labour force
  • ✓By coordinating with the Afghan government about Afghan refugees

7-Critical Analysis

8-Conclusion

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Answer to the Question

Introduction

Refugees are considered to be an integral element for the progress of a host country as refugees can either make the country advance towards prosperity or push it into the quagmire of multiple issues, economic, political, and security. Speaking of Pakistan, Afghan refugees have been residing in the country since 1979, adding burden on the state. With time, the number of refugees increased and reached a current number of 3.4 million. However, Pakistan has time and again started the process of the deportation of Afghan refugees, and the recent decision of repatriation is part of that process. The decision to repatriate Afghan refugees is a double-edged sword for Pakistan, having both positive and negative aspects. Undoubtedly, the harmful elements stand at the top. Casting a glance at the positives, deporting Afghans is deemed as a pragmatic step towards peace in the region as Afghan migrants are known to be involved in recent insurgency in the state. On the other hand, negative impacts knocking at the door are deteriorated relations with Afghanistan and a sudden shock to the economy. Hence, thawed relations with the neighbouring countries and the direct effects on the economy and informal economy are the reasons that lay the ground for the statement that Afghan deportation has more negatives than positives for Pakistan. Therefore, the country must look towards alternatives to deal with the matter and find the best way out. This article briefly describes the massive deportation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan and the possible outcomes that the country might face.

History of Afghan refugees in Pakistan

The history of Pak-Afghan relations is marked by the massive displacement of people across the border. The very first displacement of Afghans occurred in 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. According to UNHCR, the influx of 400000 Afghan refugees occurred in Pakistan in 1979 and approximately 4 million Afghans settled in Pakistan till 1988. Pakistan got financial support from the international community to build refugee camps for Afghan Muhajir. However, in 1989, the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, but displacement from Afghanistan continued, adding a burden on Pakistan to host more refugees. The second displacement of Afghans occurred after the incident at the World Trade Centre, which led to the invasion of the United States in Afghanistan. However, after the United States invasion, Pakistan successfully repatriated 1.5 million refugees, but 80% of the refugees decided not to go back to their home country. Since then, Afghans have been deported in successive years, but they continuously migrated back to Pakistan due to the porous nature of the border. Therefore, currently, Pakistan is home to 3.4 million Afghan refugees who are known to be a source of security issues in the country.

What is the layout of the Illegal Foreigner Repatriation Plan (IFRP) given by Pakistan?

Jumping towards the fundamentals of policy, Pakistan gave an illegal Foreigner Repatriation Plan (IFRP) on October 2023 to remove illegally inhabiting foreigners from the country and address the security concerns of the state. It primarily revolves around the repatriation of Afghan refugees residing in the country. The plan is divided into three phases for deporting refugees through the Torkham and Spin Boldak border crossings. All unregistered Afghans will be deported in the first cohort, and in the second cohort, Afghan Citizen Card (ACC) holders will be deported. In the last phase, Afghans containing Proof of Registration (PoR) cardholders will be deported. Hence, the step-wise plan given by the interim government of Pakistan aims at a complete exodus of the Afghan population from the country.  

Why has Pakistan decided to give the plan of deportation of Afghan refugees?

Increasing criminal activities on the border

Moving towards the reasons why Pakistan gave the repatriation plan, criminal activities by Afghans are the compelling reasons that led to the stringent action of Afghan deportation. Pakistan has been facing a spillover of crimes and violence from Afghans due to sharing a long, porous border with Afghanistan, the Durand line. Hence, the continuous unchecked mobility from Afghanistan to Pakistan has resulted in increasing organized crimes, drug trafficking, smuggling, and terrorism. According to the Islamic Policy Research Institute, “12 out of 24 major terror attacks in Pakistan are done by Afghan nationals.” Further, a rapid increase in terrorist activities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan, with a percentage increase of 59 and 39 per cent, respectively, is observed in 2023. Therefore, these tipping points led to the formulation of the policy of mass deportation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan.

Worsening dispute with Afghanistan over Tahreek-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)

Another pertinent reason for the repatriation policy is the worsening relationship between Afghanistan and Tahreek-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a militant group in Pakistan which has been increasing insurgency over the past years. According to Pakistan intelligence reports, TTP and ISK are involved in operations across borders. Therefore, Pakistan has asked Afghanistan to crack down on TTP, claiming that TTP launches operations from Afghanistan soil. Kabul, however, refrains from interfering in the matter by calling it Pakistan’s internal matter. Thus, to pressure the Afghanistan government, Pakistan has taken the step to send the refugees back to their home country.

What will be the impacts of the mass repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan?

Positive impacts
  • Decreasing insurgency                                                                       

Proceeding towards the prospects that the deportation policy carries, it will indeed halt the recent insurgency in the country caused by Afghan militants. The government has witnessed a stark rise in militant attacks in 2023. Taking an example, Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attacked the Pakistan Air Force base in Mianwali, Punjab, and damaged 3 grounded aircraft. Moreover, the Taliban are at the back end, backing all the recent attacks in Pakistan. Hence, the exodus of Afghans will reduce insurgency in the country and help the government to focus on other state affairs.

  • Decreasing crime rate

In addition, the repatriation of Afghan migrants will help to reduce the crime rate as they are involved in criminal acts, including smuggling and illegal activities. It is aptly said that with refugees comes crime, and the same is the case with Afghan refugees. Indeed, the interim government’s plan is a step toward curbing the increasing crime rate in the country. It will help bring peace to the areas of Baluchistan that are used as a hub of crimes by militants.

  • Strengthening the country’s security

Moreover, the country’s long-standing security issues, especially in Baluchistan, will be resolved to a greater extent. Baluchistan shares a border with Afghanistan, consequently facing more security issues than other provinces. Looking into the past also clarifies that Baluchistan was severely affected by the incident of 9/11. Hence, the repatriation policy seems to be a better step to reduce the security concerns in Baluchistan.  

Negative impacts 
  • Worsening relations with Afghanistan

The deportation policy has several repercussions for Pakistan. The most pertinent one is the increasing hostility between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The deportation plan will fuel the fire by downgrading the ties between the two countries. As the Taliban’s spokesperson has already declared Pakistan’s decision of deportation ‘unacceptable’. It clearly states Afghanistan’s stance on deportation policy, which is nothing but a big no. Therefore, one major challenge the country might face is strained relations with its immediate neighbour, Afghanistan. Adding to it, it will also provide room for the regional enemy, India, to go hand in hand with Afghanistan and disrupt regional peace.

  • Decreasing transit and cross-border trade of Pakistan with Afghanistan

Besides, the decision will likely have a grim impact on Pakistan’s economy as informal businesses and illegal trade across the Pak-Afghan border contribute to the country’s informal economy. According to Islamabad Policy Research Institute, the informal economy constitutes about 40 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Cutting the ties with immigrants will affect the cross-border trade with Afghanistan. Hence, the country might face a significant drop in economic growth, ultimately affecting its annual GDP.

  • Increasing risk of labour crisis in the country

Further, the mass exodus of Afghan refugees might lead to a labour force crisis in the country. All provinces, especially Sind and Punjab, use illegal aliens for manual labour in public works and the construction industry. Similarly, Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa host 1.7 million unregistered Afghan immigrants. These immigrants worked in coal and marble, providing cheap labour to Baluchestan and other provinces. However, the deportation of Afghans within a short time period can cause a severe crisis, leading to the shutting down of multiple businesses where the majority of Afghan labourers work and increasing labour costs.

What can be the pragmatic ways to deal with Afghan refugees?

By capacity building of security forces

Nonetheless, Pakistan can tackle the issue of refugees in a much better way. First, to keep a check on the illegal displacement of people across the Pak-Afghan border, the government must focus on the capacity building of security forces appointed on the border as well as proper training of the immigration apparatus of the state, such as FC, FIA, Police, and Custom. The security forces must check on the illegal movement of people and goods across the border. Moreover, the number of officials appointed on the border must also be increased. This will help to deal with the issue to a greater extent.

By making the visa process easy and corruption-free  

Second, Pakistan should make policies to make the visa process easy and corruption-free for Afghans who want to enter Pakistan. Illegal migrants involved in criminal activities must be identified and deported through proper channels, rather than deporting all the migrants, altogether, settled in the country. Moreover, the government should extend the visa’s close expiration date and simplify the visa renewal process.

By regulating Afghan that is contributing to the labour force

Third, to address the concerns of Afghans contributing as a labour force, the government must provide the Afghans with the right to work in Pakistan. Turkey and Jordan are glaring examples of such a strategy. Refugees were contributing to the informal economy in Turkey and Jurden. Therefore, they regularized the refugees working in the country. Similarly, Pakistan can also manage the situation by regulating the Afghans working in mines and providing them with smart cards.

By coordinating with the Afghan government about Afghan refugees

 Last but not least, the deportation of Afghan refugees must be carried out in coordination with the Afghan government to avoid a humanitarian crisis across the borders. Afghanistan is already facing a humanitarian crisis owing to natural calamities, floods and earthquakes. Therefore, sending refugees back in such a time when winter is ahead will further worsen the humanitarian crisis. Pakistan, at this point, should consider all the circumstances and then act accordingly. Hence, Pakistan should coordinate with the Afghan government about the mass deportation of refugees.  

Critical Analysis

To evaluate critically, Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan have been part of the country for decades. With every passing year, the mushrooming number of Afghans in the country is posing several security threats to Pakistan. Therefore, the step of government towards deportation of refugees shows the concern of the government about refugees. However, deporting refugees on short notice and deporting all the immigrants does not seem to be an excellent decision at a time when the world is already grappling with humanitarian crises in multiple countries. Hence, the government must look into workable solutions to resolve the issue.

Conclusion

To sum up, the repatriation of Afghan refugees is a double-edged sword, which has both merits and demerits for Pakistan. However, the demerits of the deportation policy stand out as the policy poses grave consequences for the country in the form of loss to the economy and the shortage of cheap labour. Therefore, it is the need of the hour that the government must look towards a middle way to resolve the issue of Afghan refugees as well as address its security concerns. This way, Pakistan can effectively earn the tag of a peaceful nation at the international level.

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