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‘Cruel and one sided’

ISLAMABAD (AP) – The Taleban yesterday appealed to Afghanistan’s private sector to help people fleeing Pakistan’s mass deportation drive.

Pakistan is arresting and expelling all foreigners it says are in the country illegally, but the policy mostly affects Afghans because they are the biggest group of undocumented foreigners in the country.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry in Kabul urged Afghanistan’s private sector to step forward and help. Afghans forcibly expelled from Pakistan are facing the worst situation of their lives, with no opportunities, the ministry said.

“The ministry invites the private sector to take action because of the profound humanitarian disaster caused by the forced migration of hundreds of thousands of the poor and needy. It is the duty of Islam and Afghans to stand up for their fellow countrymen.”

Afghanistan is overwhelmed by challenges, including years of drought, a beleaguered economy and the aftermath of decades of war. Millions are already internally displaced, raising concerns among the humanitarian community about the impoverished country being unable to support or integrate those leaving Pakistan.

Afghan refugees settle in a camp near the Torkham Pakistan-Afghanistan border, in Torkham, Afghanistan. PHOTO: AP

Taleban social media accounts have shown senior officials at the Torkham border, in eastern Nangarhar province, shaking hands with returning Afghans and welcoming them home.

Temporary camps are providing people with food, shelter, and health care, according to Taleban authorities. As many as 250,000 Afghans left Pakistan before an October 31 deadline to leave voluntarily expired.

Tens of thousands are heading to border areas fearing detention and deportation as Pakistan security forces go door-to-door searching for undocumented foreigners.

Aid agencies have scrambled teams to border areas, describing chaotic and desperate scenes among returning Afghans.

People told Save the Children they have nowhere to live or money to pay for food, rent or transport after crossing the border. Some Afghan children born in Pakistan are in Afghanistan for the first time, the agency said.

Pakistan said Afghans are responsible for carrying out suicide attacks in the country and accuses the Taleban of harbouring such militants. The Taleban deny the allegations.

On Friday, senior Taleban figures again condemned Pakistan for its anti-migrant crackdown. They called the policy cruel and one-sided and demanded that Afghans be treated with respect and dignity.