Pakistan has issued a directive for approximately 1.7 million unauthorised Afghan asylum seekers to leave the country by November. The reason cited was increased attacks along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The move has sparked controversy, with the Taliban government in Afghanistan condemning it as “unacceptable.”

The situation along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has escalated recently. Islamabad attributed the heightened tensions to Afghanistan-based operatives launching attacks in Pakistan. Notably, a devastating explosion occurred last week in Mastung city, near the border, claiming the lives of at least 50 people during a religious celebration.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti did not explicitly reference these recent attacks when announcing the crackdown on illegal Afghans.

In response to Pakistan’s order, the Taliban government in Afghanistan denied any involvement in the attacks on Pakistan and criticised Pakistan’s move to expel Afghan asylum seekers. They have consistently denied providing refuge to militants targeting Pakistan.

The decision by Pakistan to expel unauthorised Afghan asylum seekers raises questions about international law, which guarantees the right to seek refuge in a foreign country. Pakistan has a long history of hosting Afghan refugees due to decades of conflict, particularly since the Taliban regained power in Afghanistan in 2021. According to the United Nations, there are approximately 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan, with an additional 880,000 having received legal status to remain in the country.

Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti stated that there are an additional 1.7 million people in the country illegally.

Bugti did not provide specific details on the methods that would be employed for deportation. However, he made it clear that if these individuals do not comply, law enforcement agencies at the provincial and federal levels would be utilised in the process.

Balochistan province, located near Pakistan’s border, has been a frequent target of attacks by various armed groups, including the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic State militant group. Earlier this month, an explosion in the same district injured at least 11 people, including a prominent Muslim leader.

Local state outlet APP reported indications that Islamabad ultimately intends for all Afghans in the country to depart, including those with legal status and Pakistan residence cards, citing government sources.