Recently, Pakistan’s interim government has implemented an anti-immigrant policy, compelling Afghan refugees to leave the country. This unprecedented decision appears to be endorsed by the interim prime minister of Pakistan. However, the central question revolves around how Pakistan benefits from this anti-immigrant stance, particularly against Afghanistan. Why has Pakistan chosen to adopt such a policy at a time when the Taliban are in power, returning Afghans who sought refuge in Pakistan due to fear of the Taliban, and seemingly disregarding international laws?
With the Taliban in control, Pakistan perceives a smooth path towards achieving its objectives in Afghanistan. In exchange for advocating for the Taliban group and providing both direct and indirect political support, Islamabad aims to fulfill its own goals in Afghanistan. It seems that agreements have been forged in this regard between the involved parties.
To mitigate the risk of disintegration and the loss of the Pashtun geography, Pakistan has embraced an anti-immigrant policy. This includes relocating families associated with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) in close cooperation with the Taliban regime. While deporting Afghan refugees, Pakistan can seamlessly send the families of TTP members, Pashtunists, and other Pashtun jihadist groups deemed a threat to Pakistan to Afghanistan. Even individuals with Pakistani identity cards identified as security risks have had their cards canceled and have been sent to Afghanistan. On the Afghan side of the border, the predominantly Pashtun Taliban seeks to alter the country’s demographic landscape. Under the guise of settling returnees, they can relocate TTP families and other families from specific ethnic groups to designated areas, especially in the north of the country. The transfer of these families from Pakistan to Afghanistan facilitates the implementation of ethnic and population policies by the rulers of Kabul and Islamabad. Notably, the Taliban has not strongly opposed Pakistan’s refugee expulsion policy, as both governments find mutual benefit in the expulsion of Afghan refugees.
Furthermore, by forcibly deporting Afghan refugees, Pakistan aims to justify its rhetoric regarding the changes brought about by the Taliban, Afghanistan’s security, and the orderliness of the Taliban regime. Through purposeful and planned refugee relocation to Afghanistan, Pakistan seeks to bolster the narrative that returning to Afghanistan under Taliban rule does not endanger the lives of refugees. This narrative, however, remains dangerously incomplete, often obscured by media censorship and a pervasive silence, as such returns may lead to significant loss of life.
The relocation of TTP families to Afghanistan and their settlement facilitated by the Taliban paved the way for the continued presence of these destructive forces in Afghanistan. According to Islamabad, by keeping these fighters, who have posed significant security challenges for Pakistan, with their families in Afghanistan, the country can mitigate its security concerns. Simultaneously, the Taliban, adhering to an ideology of majority formation and assimilation, believe that the influx of families of TTP members and other terrorists to Afghanistan brings them closer to their majority formation policy. They assert that a larger population enables easier imposition of political and resource monopolies.
Therefore, the involvement of the Taliban is evident in Pakistan’s anti-immigrant policy. Both governments benefit from Islamabad’s recent policy of forcibly deporting Afghan refugees and collaborate in this direction. Meanwhile, the indigenous people of Afghanistan once again fall victim to the conniving schemes of the Taliban and Pakistan. If the implementation of demographic change in the country is not halted, and the Taliban and Pakistan persist in this destructive process, Afghanistan risks becoming a battleground for ethnic and internal wars, transforming the nation into a war-torn historical abyss. In such a scenario, the country may once again witness the ignition of identity and cultural conflicts on its soil.