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Thousands protest at Pakistan-Afghanistan border against strict visa policy

Thousands protest at Pakistan-Afghanistan border against strict visa policy

- Islamabad restricts entry of Afghan nationals without passport, visa

By Islamuddin Sajid

ISLAMABAD (AA) – Thousands of people on Thursday staged a protest at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in southwestern Balochistan province against Islamabad’s decision to restrict border crossing for those having no visa and passport.

The protesters blocked the main route at the Chaman border, demanding the Pakistani authorities reverse the decision.

“The Pakistani government has decided to not allow any Afghan national without visa and passport and the same decision has been taken by the Afghan Taliban, who are not allowing our people on National Identity Card (NIC),” local business community leader Ghausullah Achakzai told Anadolu.

Achakzai, who has been leading the protest being held for the last several days, said that thousands of Pakistanis and Afghans working at the border could cross on presenting the NIC earlier.

“Now, no one is allowed to cross the border on NIC,” he said, adding this decision would affect thousands of people.

On Wednesday, caretaker Information Minister Jan Achakzai also met with protesters at Chaman and requested them to end their sit-in. However, his efforts failed.

“Jan Achakzai told us that the government stands by its decision and no one will be allowed to cross the border without a visa and passport,” Achakzai said.

Earlier this month, the Pakistani government announced to expel all undocumented foreigners, with Jan Achakzai warning that the government would confiscate the properties and businesses of undocumented foreigners who would not leave the country by Nov. 1.

The decision brought tough reactions from the United Nations refugee agencies and the Afghan Taliban administration, urging Islamabad to reverse its decision.

However, Pakistan's caretaker Interior Minister Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti said that the deadline is final and there will be no compromise as the government has finalized a comprehensive repatriation plan for these illegal foreigners.

“The repatriation deadline is for every foreigner, who is staying illegally in Pakistan,” state-run Radio Pakistan quoted Bugti as saying, and adding that centers have been established for undocumented foreigners where these people will be provided shelter with all facilities in a dignified manner.

Pakistan has been hosting a large number of Afghan refugees since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, with nearly 2.9 million still living in the country.

According to a report by the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, which deals with Afghan refugees, more than 1.3 million Afghan refugees have Proof of Registration (PoR) cards while over 800,000 have Afghan Citizen Cards (ACCs).

The report said, however, that 700,000 Afghans are living in the country without any documents.

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