In a significant move to address the issue of “illegal residents,” authorities in Punjab have initiated a comprehensive operation across six districts in the division. The data collected thus far reveals that approximately 24,018 individuals fall under this category, with the most significant number being reported in Attock district. The operation is slated to commence on November 1, 2023.
According to official figures, the problem of “illegal residents” spans six Punjab districts. Of the 24,018 individuals identified, 10,000 were found in the Attock district, 1,200 in Chakwal district, 818 in Jhelum district, and a staggering 12,000 in Rawalpindi district. Authorities assert that these foreign nationals lacked proper proof of identity, prompting the need for a coordinated response.
Eviction Plan in Motion
Commissioner Liaquat Ali Chattha shared details of the plan, emphasizing that arrangements have been finalized to evict these “illegal foreigners.” A mass transit center has been established in Attock, which will serve as a temporary holding facility for immigrants before their deportation to Afghanistan via Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The newly-constructed Pir Mehr Ali Shah-Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi (PMAS-AAUR) building in Attock will be repurposed as a transit center. This facility boasts 100 rooms, providing sufficient accommodation for the affected individuals. In Rawalpindi, a 200-bed hospital building in Rawat will be used to house undocumented Afghans apprehended in the district.
Legal Proceedings Anticipated
Authorities have not taken the issue lightly and have decided to initiate legal proceedings against the driver for “criminal negligence.” The exact nature of these legal actions remains to be seen, but they are expected to serve as a deterrent against reckless driving.
The operation against undocumented immigrants is set to begin on November 1, 2023, as the given deadline of October 31, 2023, approaches. After cross-referencing their data with other security agencies, the commissioner directed deputy commissioners and DPOs from all districts to submit their “final lists” to the commissioner’s office.
Furthermore, specific locations for gathering and transporting these individuals to the Torkham border have been identified. The operation follows a comprehensive awareness campaign launched by the administration, urging refugees to voluntarily return or face state action.
The government has approved issuing eviction orders under the Foreigners Act, which will come into effect from November 1. Afghan nationals under trial or convicted for serious crimes will not be deported, but those convicted of minor offenses will be repatriated.
The regional police officer, Syed Khurram Ali, emphasized that Afghan nationals staying illegally in Pakistan have until October 31 to leave the country. Any Afghan nationals arrested in Punjab will be transferred to Rawalpindi for deportation, with transit centers playing a crucial role in the process.
Arrests Across Rawalpindi
In response to the caretaker cabinet’s decision to deport foreign nationals residing illegally in the country, the Rawalpindi police have begun the process of identifying and detaining Afghan nationals living illegally within the district. This operation has led to the arrest of over 27 Afghan nationals in various areas, including Jatli, Mandra, Race Course, and Gujar Khan.
Many Afghan nationals living in different parts of Rawalpindi, including urban, semi-urban, and rural areas, have systematically prompted authorities to address this issue. The upcoming operation aims to ensure that all individuals residing in the region do so legally and possess the required proof of identity.