Pakistan warns of crackdown on undocumented Afghans amid series of terror attacks

Analysts say extremist groups are taking advantage of worsening security in the country's north

Soldiers stand guard along a street in Kabal in the Swat Valley, in Pakistan’s north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. AFP
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Pakistan's interim Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti said on Tuesday that those responsible for 14 out of 24 suicide bombings that have taken place in the country this year were Afghan citizens, prompting calls for a crackdown on undocumented residents.

During a press conference, Mr Bugti said that the government has set a deadline for all foreign citizens residing illegally in Pakistan to leave the country.

“All undocumented migrants must leave Pakistan by November 1, failing which they will face compulsory expulsion,” he said.

Mr Bugti said that the government intends to confiscate the property of those who do not comply and added that a specialised task force would be formed to address unlawfully acquired properties across the country.

This decision to expel Afghan citizens residing in Pakistan without legal status was reached during a meeting headed by interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar. Army Chief Gen Asim Munir and other senior officials were also present.

Pakistan has witnessed a growing number of terrorist attacks this year, with some reportedly carried out by Afghan bombers, according to security forces.

One attack in the Mastung area of Balochistan claimed more than 55 lives, while twin suicide bombings at a police station resulted in five fatalities in the Hangu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The mountainous northern province, which borders Afghanistan, has long been rocked by violence, with a local branch of the Taliban sporadically launching attacks on the government since 2007.

Analysts say groups such as ISIS are taking advantage of a wave of violence between the Pakistani Taliban and government forces. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the local branch of the movement that now controls Afghanistan, has denied responsibility for the terror attacks on mosques, but its forces frequently clash with the army.

A senior security official, who spoke to The National on condition of anonymity, said that the fingerprints of the suicide bombers involved in the Hangu attack did not match the records of Pakistan's National Database and Registration Authority and it was concluded that they were Afghan citizens. The official also noted that investigators suspect ISIS's involvement in the attack.

The Counter-Terrorism Department recently dismantled a gang that had attempted to extort several wealthy people in different cities. The gang allegedly supplied information on high-profile targets to handlers in Afghanistan, who would then use Afghan phone numbers – typically inaccessible to Pakistani security agencies – to make the extortion calls.

Updated: October 03, 2023, 4:33 PM