By Rahul Kumar
New Delhi, Jun 10 (IANS): Pakistan's Interior Ministry has decided to crack down on Afghan nationals staying illegally in capital Islamabad in wake of the massive violence that shook the country on May 9 after former prime minister Imran Khan's arrest.
The police has arrested over 200 Afghans who are now being prosecuted under the Foreign Act. The Ministry of Interior also wants an audit of all Afghan settlements in Islamabad.
Pakistani authorities believe that Afghan nationals were involved in the unprecedented riots of May 9 in which Pakistani Army properties and symbols were attacked. The police say that the crackdown on the Afghans is to curb the crime rate in the capital.
Tens of thousands of Afghans have been residing in Pakistan for years due to the conflict in their country. That number increased suddenly after the Taliban took over power from President Ashraf Ghani in the wake of the US and NATO forces vacating the nation.
The latest estimates, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, say that more than 600,000 Afghans fled for Pakistan fearing the Taliban in August 2021, pushing the numbers of Afghan refugees to 3.7 million. However, most of the refugees are not registered with the UNHCR.
For the past few months Islamabad has been pushing many reluctant Afghans back to their country. It has also arrested many and imprisoned them in poor conditions, a point which was raised by the Taliban representative in Islamabad.
More recently, tensions have risen between Kabul and Islamabad over the treatment of the Afghan nationals in Pakistan.
Afghan news agency Tolo News reports that the Afghanistan embassy in Islamabad has alleged that Pakistani agencies are arresting Afghan citizens with proper passports. The embassy also urged Pakistan to stop the arrest of Afghan refugees and to raise its concerns officially, "as it can adversely impact bilateral relations between the two nations".
The Taliban government has also taken note of the Afghans arrested after the May 9 riots.
Hafiz Zia Ahmad Takal, the deputy spokesman for the Afghan Foreign Ministry has said that Afghan nationals are being arrested in Pakistan under the pretext of taking part in recent anti-Pakistan protests. He urged Islamabad to stop arresting Afghan immigrants in Pakistan and allow them to live in the country as usual.
Diplomatic relations between the two nations have been sliding over a number of issues. Earlier the two had a spat after Islamabad threatened to attack terror camps across the Durand Line.
Numerous clashes have also broken out between the two on their common border.