UN warns Pakistan against ‘unsubstantiated linkages’ between refugees, terrorism


ISTANBUL: The UN warned Wednesday against drawing “unsubstantiated linkages” between the presence of refugees and migrants and risks of terrorism in Pakistan.

“We are deeply concerned at allegations of forced evictions…by landlords…(and) reported cases of arbitrary arrests of Afghan nationals in Pakistan, including children, since the beginning of 2023,” a group of 12 UN experts said in a statement.

Acknowledging that Pakistan has hosted Afghan refugees for over two decades, the experts warned however that “unsubstantiated linkages must not be drawn between the presence of refugees and migrants and risks of terrorism.”

“It is critical now, that Afghan nationals continue to receive protection, without discrimination, and that the human rights of all migrants, refugees, victims of trafficking, and all those with continuing fear of persecution, including gender persecution, are ensured,” they said.

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

Interim Prime Minister Anwarul Haq Kakar claimed last month that Pakistan suffered a “60% increase in terror incidents and a 500% rise in suicide bombings since the Taliban returned to power,” noting that nearly 2,300 Pakistanis have been killed in those attacks.

The Taliban entered Afghanistan’s capital Kabul and captured control of the country in August 2021.

Defending his government’s move to deport undocumented foreigners, Kakar said such a decision was taken due to a “sharp increase in nationwide terrorist incidents,” alleging that foreigners “without legal status are linked to those fuelling terrorism and instability in Pakistan.”

However, the UN experts said: “The regulation of migration is subject to international law, including the principle of non-refoulement and non-discrimination.”

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

Amnesty International urged Pakistan to halt the “continued detentions, deportations and widespread harassment” of Afghan refugees.

More than 450,000 undocumented Afghan refugees have left Pakistan in the last month.

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.

Key border closed

​​​​​​Earlier Wednesday, a key border crossing with Afghanistan was closed following a dispute over the construction of a new gate, an official told Anadolu.

The Torkham border crossing has been closed to travellers and traffic following a verbal clash between border security forces from the two countries.

“We are constructing a new gate near the border crossing and the Afghan Taliban raised objection to the signboard ‘Welcome to Pakistan,’” a Pakistani official at the border told Anadolu by phone on condition of anonymity.

The official, however, said that repatriation of illegal Afghan refugees will continue.

Islamabad also accuses “Afghanistan-based” militants loyal to the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) armed group of carrying out attacks with the Taliban turning a blind eye.

Kabul, for its part, denies the charge.__Tribune.com.pk