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Govt tells illegal immigrants to leave by Nov 1

Sarfaraz Bugti warned illegal immigrants had been given deadline of Nov 1 to leave Pakistan for their native countries or face deportation

By M Saleh Zaafar & Muhammad Anis & News Desk & Shakeel Anjum & Sher Ali Khalti
October 04, 2023
This picture released on August 31, 2023, shows The caretaker Federal Interior Minister, Sarfaraz Bugti presiding over a meeting. — X/@PakSarfrazbugti
This picture released on August 31, 2023, shows The caretaker Federal Interior Minister, Sarfaraz Bugti presiding over a meeting. — X/@PakSarfrazbugti

ISLAMABAD: The caretaker Federal Interior Minister, Sarfaraz Bugti, has announced November 1 as the deadline for all illegal immigrants to leave Pakistan or face deportation and seizure of properties and businesses.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Tuesday, Federal Interior Minister Sarfaraz Bugti warned that the illegal immigrants had been given a deadline of November 1 to leave Pakistan for their native countries or face deportation. "Their assets and businesses in Pakistan can be confiscated after the expiry of the deadline," the minister announced.

Illegal Afghan nationals were responsible for 14 of the 24 suicide bombings in the country this year, he said and added, “Safety and security of the people of Pakistan is the prime responsibility and foremost priority of the government.”

He said a drastic crackdown would be launched against the illegal immigrants, including Afghan nationals, who would be arrested and expelled to their native countries. He said that at least 4.2 million Afghan people were living in Pakistan, of which not less than three million were living illegally without any legal documents.

“The government is not focusing on immigrants from Afghanistan only as our focus is on all illegal immigrants,” the minister clarified. He said that Pakistan was the only country permitting entry of people even without any legal travelling documents or passports. “A task force has also been constituted to take action against illegal immigrants,” Bugti said.

The minister emphasized that there had been irregularities in the issuance of CNICs (computerised national identity cards) and warned that stern action would be taken against those who tamper with Nadra’s family tree.

The government would utilise DNA testing to confirm the nationality of those having suspected CNICs, he added. The interior minister explained that the task force comprising officials of law enforcement and intelligence agencies would launch a crackdown against the people having illegal CNICs and take action against their business assets and personal properties.

Bugti announced that a universal helpline number and a web portal were being established so that citizens could report any illegal activity related to smuggling. The names of those who provide any information would be kept secret, the minister elaborated. He said the aim of these initiatives was to bring our own house in order and those who have visas legally would not be impacted at all. He also warned of action against any of the Pakistani citizens involved in illegal businesses of undocumented foreigners and providing them accommodation.

Earlier, the Apex Committee of the National Action Plan pledged to deal with possible security challenges and ensure the implementation of Constitution and law in line with the expectations of the people.

The Apex Committee meeting, chaired by caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, was also attended by the Chief of Army Staff, relevant federal ministers, provincial chief ministers and heads of all civil and military agencies. The participants undertook a comprehensive assessment of the country’s internal security situation so that possible challenges could be dealt with in a sustainable manner and resolved that despite all difficulties, writ of the state would be ensured.

The Apex Committee decisions included expulsion of illegal foreign nationals and formalization of border movement procedures, which would only be allowed through passports and visas and action against illegal immigration, cracking down on trade and property of illegal foreigners, a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said.

A task force has been formed under the Federal Interior Ministry to investigate fake identity cards, businesses and properties of illegal foreign nationals.

The Apex Committee also reiterated to enhance and expedite ongoing operations against drug trafficking, hoarding, food and currency smuggling, illegal remittances and power theft. It highlighted that the use of force was the sole prerogative of the state and no person or group would be allowed to use coercive force. It was made clear that there was absolutely no place for any political armed group or organization in the country and those involved in such activities will be dealt with iron hands.

Highlighting that Islam is a religion of peace, COAS Gen Asim Munir said the state would not allow anyone to achieve political goals by interpreting the religion in their own way and that the state would protect the rights of minorities given to them by Islam and the Constitution.

The forum emphasized that those who were spreading propaganda and disinformation should be dealt with strictly under cyber laws.

The Apex Committee reiterated its determination that the principles of faith, unity and discipline would be followed in a true sense and tireless efforts would be continued for the development of the country.

In a related development, implementing the decision of the National Apex Committee to deport aliens, the Punjab Home Department has sought the details of illegally staying foreigners from the deputy commissioners across the province.

According to the letter from the Punjab Home Department, the records of illegal resident foreigners were requested from the deputy commissioners across the province. A comprehensive strategy will be prepared for the return of illegal residents and they will be taken away with the cooperation of embassies. The letter states that it is a crime for foreigners to assist illegal residents in the form of residence, finances and employment, and action will be taken against foreigners who stay illegally under the Foreign Act.

Likewise, the Sindh Home Department constituted committees at the province, division, and district levels to oversee the expulsion of illegal foreigners living in the province. Its notification said, “In order to oversee the implementation of the process of repatriation of illegal foreigners, an Implementation Committee is hereby constituted.”

The committees will include representatives of intelligence agencies, including Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Intelligence Bureau (IB), Military Intelligence (MI), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and Sindh’s Commissioner for Afghan refugees.

They will gather data on unregistered refugees living in the province and will not only be responsible for taking measures to expel them but will also take steps to prevent their entry into the province. The province and division-level committees will be chaired by the additional chief secretary and relevant divisional commissioner respectively, whereas district-level committees will be headed by concerned deputy commissioners.

Although, the government hasn’t given any deadline to complete deportation of illegal immigrants, sources said a 10-week operation would be carried out on the expiry of the deadline. The deadline has been determined keeping in view the upcoming polls supposed to take place in the last week of January next.