Pakistan sets October 31 deadline for illegal immigrants to leave country

apex committee pakistan

ISLAMABAD: In a significant decision aimed at safeguarding the territorial integrity of Pakistan, the National Apex Committee has issued the October 31 deadline for illegal immigrants to the country before the law takes its course.

Caretaker Prime Minister Anwarul Haq Kakar chaired the meeting of the Apex Committee of National Action Plan, which was also attended by Chief of Army Staff Gen Syed Asim Munir, all cabinet members, provincial police chiefs and top officials of all relevant departs.

The apex committee agreed that all non-citizen residents living in Pakistan unlawfully are warned to leave the country by October 31, 2023.

In a press release issued after the meeting it was said that federal and provincial authorities, starting from November 1, 2023, will take all possible measures to apprehend and ensure the lawful deportation of unlawfully residing foreign nationals.

E-Tazkira will be mandatory

It said that from October 10, computerized identity cards (E-Tazkira) will be mandatory for movement across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, with passport and visa approval being the sole means for entry starting from November 1, 2023.

The apex committee said that all other forms of documentation will be deemed ineffective and illegal for cross-border travel.

It said that effective November 1, 2023, the properties and businesses of unlawfully residing foreign nationals will be confiscated, and severe actions will be taken against those engaged in illegal business activities.

It said that beyond November 1, 2023, any Pakistani citizens or companies providing residence or facilities to unlawfully residing foreign nationals will face strict legal actions.

Sarfraz Bugti’s press conference

Addressing a press conference after the apex committee meeting, Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti said that to ensure the implementation of these directives, the Ministry of Interior has established a task force comprising law enforcement and intelligence personnel.

This task force aims to seize illegal properties obtained through fraudulent identity cards and conduct DNA tests to verify identities, he said.

“Information regarding unlawfully residing foreign individuals in Pakistan can be reported through a web portal and a dedicated helpline. Citizens collaborating with the government in this regard will be rewarded and their identities kept confidential,” he said

“Stringent actions are already under way against illegal activities, including hoarding, smuggling, hawala/hundi, and electricity theft,” Bugti said.

He said no leniency will be shown to individuals involved in these crimes. “Joint checkposts have been established and equipped with technological tools to curb the smuggling of essential commodities, reducing smuggling-related corruption among government officials,” he said.

The interim interior minister said that to combat the drug trade, a National Counter-Narcotics Control Centre has been established. This center will ensure coordination in efforts to curb drug trafficking and provide intelligence information, Bugti said.

He said that drug rehabilitation centres will be set up in every province in a phased manner.

Who will evict illegal residents

“The use of force is the sole prerogative of the state, and no one else is authorized to employ it. Any use of force or violence by any group, faction, or organisation is strictly prohibited, and those resorting to such methods will be dealt with by the state,” he said.

He said that Islam is the religion of peace, and the state will not permit anyone to promote a divisive interpretation of religion for political purposes. “Minority rights and religious freedom are integral to Islam and Pakistan’s constitution, and those violating these rights will face the full force of the law,” Bugti said.

“Organizations within the country can peacefully present their legitimate demands to the state for resolution through legal means. However, any organization resorting to violence or extremism will be dealt with firmly,” he said.

Action against foreign nationals with expired visas on the cards

The interim interior minister said that propagation of propaganda and misinformation online will be rigorously controlled under cyber laws. “Technical methods are being put in place to ensure awareness of the laws and proper enforcement for the protection and convenience of the public.”

The fundamental principles of faith, unity, and discipline will be reinforced, and every institution responsible for law enforcement will be instructed to maintain law and order effectively, he said.

Bugti said that it was crucial to strengthen the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) to address security challenges effectively. “The function of National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) will be enhanced by combining the expertise of national security and IT specialists.”

“The importance of data cannot be overstated, and the cabinet’s approval for these appointments signifies a strong commitment to national security and the rule of law. National security and IT experts working together will improve the efficiency of NADRA,” he said.

Suicide attacks and Afghans

He said that from January until now, there have been 24 suicide bombings and of these 24, 14 attacks were carried out by Afghan nationals. Additionally, one of the attackers in Hangu was also of Afghan origin, he said.

“We also face attacks from Afghanistan. Strengthening the Counter-Terrorism Department is imperative for us.”

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