Pakistani officials have reported that more than 100,000 Afghan nationals have returned to their Taliban-ruled homeland in the past two weeks, as a deadline for undocumented immigrants to leave Pakistan expires by the end of today, Reuters has reported.
A senior official in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a north-western province bordering Afghanistan, gave the number for people who had left via the main Torkham border crossing. “Some of them have been living in Pakistan for more than 30 years without any proof of registration,” said Deputy Commissioner Abdul Nasir Khan.
An as yet undetermined number have also gone back via Chaman, the border town in the south-western province of Balochistan.
Earlier in October, Pakistan warned that it would expel all undocumented immigrants who remained in the country after 1 November, including hundreds of thousands of Afghan nationals. The government said that an operation to round up and expel people would start on Thursday.
More than four million Afghans are living in Pakistan, of which some 1.7 million are undocumented, according to government estimates. Many are families who fled during the decades of conflict that Afghanistan has suffered since the late 1970s, while the Taliban takeover following the US withdrawal in 2021 led to another exodus.
In taking its hard-line stance, the Pakistan government has claimed that Afghan nationals have been behind militant attacks, smuggling and other crimes in its territory. Kabul dismissed the accusations and rights groups protested, asking Pakistan to reconsider.