Lahore: Crackdown on Afghan refugees staying illegally begins
LAHORE: The government of Pakistan has launched a countrywide crackdown on the Afghan refuges residing illegally in the country after the deadline they were given to submit their data to the office of Afghan refugees expired on February 28.
Sources in the government told Daily Times that the authorities were planning to issue national identity cards (NIC) to the registered refugees in order to protect their rights and also to curb incidents of terrorism and crimes, which are mostly pinned on them due to the alleged infiltration of terrorists into Pakistan from Afghanistan.
“These cards will be similar to the Pakistani NICs but they will stipulate some restrictions relating to the refugees buying property in the country,” they elaborated. They said the cards would also contain a backend database with NADRA and concerned authorities to make it easier for anybody to verify status of the cardholder. The authorities believe that there are around two million registered Afghan refugees present in the country out of whom 0.15 million live in Punjab.
The concerned officials told Daily Times that there were still more than one million illegal Afghan refugees in Punjab alone as they migrated from different parts of Afghanistan during the Soviet and then US wars in the country. The critics believe that this uncontrolled influx cost the country a lot in terms of terrorism, increase in different kinds of crimes, including robberies and murders as well as massive increase in smuggling of weapons, drugs and human trafficking.
They said that there were Afghan colonies located almost in every city of Pakistan now and most of these settlers were not connected with citizens of the country, which creates a gray area for the law enforcement agencies to check and ascertain their identities.
The UN and other non-government organisations working for rehabilitation of these refugees have increased the prize money for the volunteers, who are willing to return to their homeland, from $100 per person to $150. Yet, it remains a challenge for the authorities because a large number of them collected the prize money and went to Afghanistan but returned within a day to continue their work or activities inside Pakistan. International and local organisations have now introduced a system of biometrics to stop refugees from recollecting the prize money after infiltrating back into Pakistan.
Afghan Refugees Punjab Director, Mehboob Rabbani, told Daily Times that the government was also keen to support the refugees who were working or doing businesses inside the country and were planning to facilitate them by issuing different kinds of permits so that their businesses and stay could get a legal cover.
He said the Afghan citizens would feel safer inside Pakistan with the issuance of identity cards as it would not be possible for anybody to deprive them of their rights, including reasonable wages, once they would be recognised by the government of Pakistan. He said it would also facilitate the law enforcement authorities in checking those who are living illegally or involved in illegal activities instead of scanning the entire community.