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Pak. to crack down on illegal immigrants

Pak. to crack down on illegal immigrants

Author: B. Muralidhar Reddy
Publication: The Hindu
Date: May 13, 2002

Alarmed over recent incidents of terrorism, the Pakistan Government has decided to launch a crackdown on illegal immigrants.

The measure is likely to mainly affect thousands of Afghanis. While the estimates of Afghanis in Pakistan before the Taliban regime was ousted varied between 2.5 and 3 million, no estimate of the number of Afghanis without "valid documents" is available.

In recent weeks the Musharraf Government has been under pressure from the United States to look for cadres of Al-Qaeda and Taliban that could have strayed into its territory from Afghanistan.

The presence of a huge Afghan population in virtually every province of the country makes it easy for the erstwhile cadres of Taliban, particularly Afghans, to find safe hideouts. The U.S.-led coalition believes that the tribal areas in Pakistan are particularly vulnerable to infiltration from Afghanistan, given the affinity of the people on both sides of the border.

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are on paper under the jurisdiction of the military government but for practical purposes they enjoy a great deal of autonomy.

Attempts by Islamabad in the past to regulate the affairs in the region have met with stiff resistance.

There are reports of protests and widespread anger in the tribal areas over the possibility of joint operations by the Pakistani and U.S.-led coalition forces in search of Al-Qaeda and Taliban cadres. It is indeed a tight rope-walk for the Musharraf Government given the pressure from Washington and the resistance from the tribal leaders.

The decision to crackdown on illegal immigrants appears to have been taken after the high-level meeting on Saturday to review the law and order situation in the wake of the Karachi bombing.

Media reports said that all the provincial governments have been directed to look for illegal migrants. The police have been given a two-week deadline to arrest them.

The reports said that after the May 30 deadline, if any illegal immigrant was found in the country, the Station House Officers of the concerned area would face dismissal from service, while the Senior Superintendents of Police would also be served with "displeasure notice''.

The SHOs had been directed to submit a detailed report to the SSPs, within two-weeks time, about all those foreigners who had a legal status as well as those had been living illegally.

It is a tall order for the law enforcing agencies to deliver in a fortnight and observers wonder if it is a feasible directive.

The nature of the problem could be gauged from the number of Afghans- over 80,000- living here in the national capital itself.

The English daily, Dawn, has said that according to a report compiled by the Special Branch of Islamabad police, 48 gangs of Afghan nationals had been operating in Islamabad.

They were involved in cases ranging from shoplifting to house robberies. As per the report 11,145 members of 725 Afghan families had been living in the federal capital without legal documents.

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