The Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) and the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) on Thursday decided to begin documentation of illegal Afghan nationals in what is termed as a ‘carrot-and-stick policy’ for illegal Afghan nationals.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Federal Minister for SAFRON Lt Gen (retired) Abdul Qadir Baloch and Chairman Nadra Usman Mobeen asking illegal Afghan nationals to get themselves registered.
Under the MoU, Nadra will establish more than 50 registration centres to register illegal Afghan nationals living in Pakistan.
Each centre will be manned by an official from the Afghan government who will be tasked with verifying the Afghan nationals for documentation.
Responding to a question about why illegal Afghan nationals would offer themselves up to be identified by the administration, Baloch said the police would chase and harass those who lack documentation.
“There is an offer for the Afghan nationals in the deal… This is a carrot-and-stick approach. If Afghan nationals get themselves registered, they will not be harassed by police,” Abdul Qadir Baloch told DawnNews, adding that the undocumented would be haunted by the police.
Baloch said there are around 1 million Afghan nationals living without documentation in Pakistan and the issue has been raised with the Afghan government.
“The Afghan government has been taken on board before starting documentation of the illegal Afghan nationals in Pakistan. This is why Afghan government will provide us with an official for each centre to verify the illegal immigrants,” he said.
In a damning report on the “forced returns” of Afghan refugees, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Pakistani government to avoid recreating conditions in 2017 that coerced the involuntary return of refugees to Afghanistan in 2016.
In its report titled “Pakistan Coercion, UN Complicity: The Mass Forced Return of Afghan Refugees”, the HRW held the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) complicit in the “coerced return” of Afghan refugees, and called on it to “speak out as necessary and challenge any repeat in 2017 of the appalling and unlawful pressure Pakistan placed on Afghans in 2016, that coerced many to return to danger and destitution in Afghanistan in such massive numbers.”
According to the report, Pakistan has hosted over a million Afghan refugees for most of the last 40 years.
In the second half of 2016, 365,000 of the 1.5 million registered refugees were “pushed out by a toxic combination of deportation threats and police abuses.”
About 200,000 of the 1m undocumented Afghan refugees in Pakistan returned to their country over the same period.
The HRW terms the exodus “the world’s largest unlawful mass forced return of refugees in recent times.”
The consequences of the National Action Plan for Afghan refugees included a wave of police abuse, such as the unlawful use of force, arbitrary arrests and detentions, extortion and demolition of houses.
However, Afghans interviewed by the HRW said that police abuses had decreased significantly during the last few months of 2015.