KARACHI, PAKISTAN (AP) – Pakistani police in multiple raids detained at least 1,200 Afghan nationals, including women and children, who had entered the southern port city of Karachi without valid travel documents, officials said on Thursday.
The arrests brought criticism from around Afghanistan after images of locked up Afghan children were circulated online. The detentions underscored the strained relations between the two South Asian neighbours.
Police and local government officials said the detainees will be deported to Afghanistan after serving their sentences or when the paperwork for their release is completed by their attorneys. Pakistani officials claim that most of the detainees wish to return home.
Although Pakistan routinely makes such arrests, multiple and apparently coordinated raids were launched beginning in October to detain Afghans staying in Karachi and elsewhere without valid documents.
Afghan Consulate in Karachi official Gul Din said he was in contact with Pakistan about a “quick and dignified return” of the Afghan citizens to their homeland.
Pictures of some Afghan children crammed into a cell of the central jail in Karachi went viral on social media, drawing appeals for their release along with their parents.
At least 139 Afghan women and 165 children are among those being held at a high-security jail in Karachi, according to a report released this month by Pakistan’s National Commission on Human Rights.
The report was based on interviews with scores of imprisoned Afghan detainees.