November 9, 2023
ISLAMABAD – Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar on Wednesday said there has been an increase in terror incidents in Pakistan since the interim Afghan government came to power in 2021, as he linked the ongoing deportation drive of illegal immigrants to counter-terrorism actions.
The Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021 after a lightning sweep that ended in Kabul as government forces, trained for years and equipped by the United States and others at a cost of trillions of dollars, melted away.
Addressing the media in Islamabad, he said, “After the establishment of the interim Afghan government in August 2021, we had a strong hope that there would be long-term peace in Afghanistan. […] Strict action would be taken against Pakistan-opposing groups, especially the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, and they would absolutely not be allowed to use Afghan soil against Pakistan.
“But unfortunately, after the establishment of the interim Afghan govt, there has been a 60 per cent increase in terror incidents and 500pc rise in suicide attacks in Pakistan,” he claimed.
The premier further said, “In the past two years, 2,267 innocent citizens’ lives have been lost to this tragic bloodshed, for which the terrorists of TTP are responsible who are conducting cowardly attacks on Pakistani using Afghan soil.
“During this time, 15 Afghan citizens were also among the people involved in suicide attacks. Other than this, till now, 64 Afghan citizens were killed while fighting Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies during the counterterrorism campaign,” he added.
However, the prime minister did not provide any further details about the alleged involvement of Afghan nationals in any specific terror attack.
His statement comes after the country witnessed a sharp rise in terror incidents during the past week, including on Mianwali Training Air Base claimed by the Tehreek-i-Jihad Pakistan and an ambush in Gwadar claimed by the Balochistan Liberation Front, while no group claimed responsibility for attacks in Dera Ismail Khan.
The premier said that according to a monitoring report released in July this year by the United Nations, there was “clear mention of TTP centres in Afghanistan and increase in its activities against Pakistan”.
The prime minister added that even after reassurances from the Afghan government of taking action against the TTP, “no actions were taken against anti-Pakistan groups”. “Instead, in a few instances, clear evidence of enabling terrorism also came forward,” he said without providing further details.
‘Full legal, ethical right to send back illegal foreigners’
PM Kakar then stated that the ongoing countrywide deportation drive against illegal immigrants was a step taken by Pakistan “to correct its interior matters itself”.
“Pakistan’s recent actions regarding this are neither surprising nor unexpected. Illegal immigrants have a huge role in spreading unrest in Pakistan, which is why the state of Pakistan decided to send them back to their countries from Nov 1,” he added.
“Pakistan has full legal and ethical right to send back foreigners residing in the country illegally,” the premier asserted.
The prime minister stated that there were 1.4 million Afghan refugees currently residing in the country who were registered via the ‘Proof of Residence’ card while the government registered another 0.8m under the Afghan citizen card, adding that they would not be deported.
PM Kakar termed the statements made by Afghan leaders criticising the deportation drive as “unnecessary, unresponsible, misleading and threatening”, adding that they were “upsetting”.
The premier went on to demand Afghanistan to hand over “Pakistanis residing in Afghanistan who are involved in terrorism against Pakistan” to Pakistan.
He further said that the government hoped the neighbouring country would take “every possible action” to make sure that its soil was not used for attacks against Pakistan.
‘More than 250,000 have returned till now’
Responding to reporters’ questions, PM Kakar stated that around 252,000 illegal immigrants have returned to their country, terming it a “sign that the policy would be implemented successfully”.
The premier hoped that the relations between the two countries would improve following this drive as the leaders would know “what expectations should be kept”.
The prime minister asserted that the policy was “not enacted to target people or make a way to fill pockets of people at lower positions”, adding that people found to be involved in such acts would be punished. “Any kind of discrimination based on any ethnicity would not be tolerated.”
Responding to another question about alleged statements from other countries about illegal foreigners who were to be relocated there, PM Kakar said that terming “requests” that Pakistan gets from other countries as “pressure” was unfair.
On the matter of foreign assistance with the deportation drive, the premier said, “If there is assistance, we will welcome it. Even if there is not, we have made the decision in our benefit — even with limited resources — [so] we will do this job.”
Deportation drive amidst rise in terror activities
Of the more than four million Afghans living in Pakistan, the government estimates 1.7m are undocumented.
While the decision had prompted criticism from Afghanistan and several other quarters, the caretakers refused to budge from the deadline, insisting the move is not aimed at any particular ethnic group.
Last month, interim Punjab Information Minister Amir Mir had claimed that there were “24 suicide bombings in different parts of Pakistan and Afghan nationals were identified as suicide bombers in 14 such incidents”, without specifying any further details.
Last week, 14 soldiers lost their lives after militants attacked two vehicles of security forces in Gwadar. The next day, nine terrorists were killed in a clearance operation after the Pakistan Army foiled a terrorist attack on the Mianwali Training Air Base. A day ago, four security personnel were martyred in a shoot-out in Tirah during an intelligence-based operation.
On Sunday, caretaker Balochistan Information Minister Jan Achakzai had claimed that six militants who were killed in the Zhob attack had Afghan identity cards in their possession, which were recovered by the security forces.