Pakistan PM says expulsion of Afghans a response to Taliban non-cooperation

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -Pakistan said on Wednesday that its move to expel hundreds of thousands of undocumented Afghans was a response to the unwillingness of the Taliban-led administration to act against militants using Afghanistan to carry out attacks in Pakistan.

Last month, Pakistan set a Nov. 1 start date for the expulsion of all undocumented immigrants, including hundreds of thousands of Afghans. It cited security reasons, brushing off calls to reconsider from the United Nations, rights groups and Western embassies.

“After non-cooperation by the Afghan interim government, Pakistan has decided to take matters into its own hands – and Pakistan’s recent actions are neither unexpected or surprising,” caretaker Prime Minister Anwar ul Haq Kakar told journalists.

Tens of thousands of Afghans, many of whom have lived in Pakistan for decades, have had to leave the country, and authorities are rounding up many more in raids across the country.

Kakar said 15 suicide bombings in recent months had been carried out by Afghans, and dozens of Afghans had been killed in clashes with Pakistani security forces.

He said Pakistan had continuously conveyed concerns about militant safe havens in Afghanistan but, despite repeated assurances, the Taliban-led administration had not taken action.

Instead, evidence suggested militants had been facilitated in Afghanistan, said Kakarm in an unusually strongly-worded statement against the Taliban, who for years were considered to be close allies of Pakistan.

A spokesman for the Taliban administration, Zabihullah Mujahid, in a statement denied the accusations.

Kakar said Islamabad had hoped the Taliban’s ascent to power in 2021, which followed the withdrawal of U.S.-led foreign forces from the country, would bring peace and cooperation.

But since then, he said, there had been a 60% rise in militant attacks in Pakistan and a 500% rise in suicide bombings in which more than 2,200 Pakistanis had been killed.

Mujahid said that the increasing militant attacks in Pakistan after the Taliban’s coming to power did not mean the Islamist movement was behind the insecurity.

There has been a resurgence of attacks by Islamist militants in Pakistan since talks between Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Pakistani state broke down in 2022.

TTP, an umbrella organisation of Islamist groups, pledges allegiance to, and gets its name from, the Afghan Taliban but is not directly a part of the entity that rules Afghanistan.

Kakar said that Pakistan had communicated to the Taliban administration that it had to “choose between Pakistan and the TTP”.

(Reporting by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Alex Richardson)