Foreigners warned of expulsion if they partake in general polls

Those responsible for fake passports and NICs to be held accountable, says Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti

By Web Desk
December 08, 2023
Afghan refugees returning voluntarily waiting for their turn at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Azakhel Voluntary Repatriation Centre in Nowshera on November 23, 2023. — AFP

As Pakistan gears up for next year's February 8 general elections amid the ongoing expulsion of aliens, caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti warned that foreigners residing in the country will face deportations if they are found involved in political activities.

"People involved in political activities are being deported [...] whether it be Afghan refugees or citizens of any other country, they will face deportation [if found in violation of directives]," Bugti said while speaking to the media on Friday.

The security czar underscored that the prohibition from participating in political activities applies to all foreigners regardless of their entry documents, Geo Newsreported.

The announcement comes as the interim government, citing security concerns, has initiated a nationwide campaign to expel millions of illegal foreigners, mostly Afghan citizens, living in the country.

The policy decision came after Afghan nationals were found to be involved in crimes, smuggling, and 14 suicide bombings out of 24 this year, with the government alleging that the militants use Afghan soil to train fighters and plan attacks inside Pakistan — an accusation denied by Afghanistan's Taliban-led administration.

Of the more than four million Afghans living in Pakistan, the government estimates 1.7 million are undocumented with many fleeing their war-torn country during its decades of internal conflict since the late 1970s, while the Taliban takeover after the US withdrawal in 2021 led to another exodus.

Reiterating that only Pakistanis are allowed to engage in politics in the country, he underscored that even "registered" foreigners are prohibited from playing any role in politics.

"[We] have identified 10 people who were involved in political activities," the security czar said.

The minister also revealed that there is a security threat against Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman at a time when a general security threat persists against the country's political leadership as a whole.

Last month, the Ministry of Interior, in a statement, had said that all illegal as well as "legal" Afghans living in Pakistan will be prohibited from funding any political and electoral activities — including providing funds to any candidate — in the upcoming polls.

Addressing the issue of fake passports, Bugti said that the government is looking into more such cases and that those responsible for fake identity cards and passports will be held accountable.

The security czar's remarks come after it was revealed that Afghanistan's Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani — along with thousands of others — were holding fake Pakistani passports.

A well-placed official who is privy to the ongoing cleansing of the record has said that around 30,000 - 40,000 passports issued to Afghan nationals have been blocked, The News reported on Thursday.

On the issue of cross-border terrorism, the minister said that the government is in contact with Afghanistan and revealed the terrorist responsible for the August suicide bombing in Bannu — which martyred nine soldiers — was an Afghan citizen who entered Pakistan on Tazkira (Afghan identity card).