This report is supported by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives
September 22, 2023
By Shaukat Korai
Over the past two weeks, the Karachi Police has arrested some 500 Afghans as part of an ongoing crackdown. Detained migrants are being charged under the Foreigners Act of 1946, while the courts have so far ordered 300 deportations.
Khan Shirin and his family have been residing in Karachi for years, making ends meet by picking waste paper and cardboard. However, after a 5:00 am arrest on July 1, 2023, the court decreed that he be sent back to his country of origin as he did not possess a residency permit.
“How can a poor man, a waste-picker, have documents? I collect cardboard from shops and sell them…” he says. “For two months and 16 days they kept me in jail. There is no one to inquire about my health, whether I’ve eaten or not…”
Those arrested claim that the police are carrying out indiscriminate arrests, nabbing even those with complete and verifiable legal documents.
Advocate Mohammad Zahir, who is part of a panel of lawyers providing legal assistance to Afghan migrants, says that a similar operation was carried out last year against undocumented migrants. This time, however, more than 70 percent of those being processed for deportation have residency permits.
“The first wave [of arrests] started in May of last year, but it lost considerable momentum by June and July this year. Since September 9, at least 500 people have been arrested,” he explains. “The Sindh and Federal governments said they initiated this operation to arrest illegal immigrants. In around 70 percent of the cases we have received in this latest wave, the detained Afghans had [Proof of Registration] cards or [Afghan Citizen Cards] issued by the Government of Pakistan.”
He also provides that some of the detainees were waste pickers that were out in the street doing their work when they were arrested. In many other cases, the police entered their homes in the wee hours and picked up all the men, leaving their women and girls to fend for themselves.
Advocates Syed Habibullah and Irfan Agha also insist that the police’s actions are illegal, and they are often late in submitting their findings to the courts which often results in the migrants remaining in detention for a long time.
Advocate Zahir says that the Afghan government has also left their citizens on their own.
“When migrants were being arrested in 2019, former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani met with then Prime Minister Imran Khan and reached an agreement. It is not the same case anymore today. And one of the reasons why sweeping arrests are being made is because the Afghan government is not doing much about this.”
On the other hand, the Afghan Consulate in Pakistan has appointed a lawyer to provide legal assistance to their citizens. The Consulate states that the Afghan government is extending full support to affected citizens in Karachi.
“The Afghan Consulate has constituted a legal team to represent Afghan citizens in the courts here,” says Siddiq Ullah Kakar, legal advisor to the Afghan Consulate in Karachi. “The Consulate, after clearance from the Afghan government, confirms that all the deportees were processed per procedure.”
Further still, police officials assure that no action will be taken against legal Afghan migrants, and that the courts have ordered the immediate release of those with legal permits.