Pakistan’s Repatriation Initiative

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Salman Javed

In the chessboard of international relations, where every move echoes beyond borders, Pakistan’s recent repatriation drive is more than a political gambit. – As the world watches this unfolding spectacle, the layers of complexity peel back to reveal a story that goes beyond the surface of mere repatriation.
In recent weeks, Pakistan’s government has undertaken a mass repatriation initiative, primarily targeting illegal immigrants, sparking debates and tensions with the neighboring Afghanistan owing to the large sum of illegal Afghans residing in Pakistan. However, it is essential to view this repatriation process not solely as an anti-Afghan move but as a strategic effort by Pakistan to address internal security concerns and foster economic stability.
The ongoing repatriation is not a sudden shift in policy but a response to Pakistan’s long-standing struggle with security challenges, especially those posed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The TTP, operating from Afghanistan, has intensified its attacks on Pakistani military and police forces, leading to a 60% rise in casualties since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) regained control of Afghanistan in August 2021. This poses a significant threat to the stability and security of Pakistan.
Pakistan’s caretaker Minister of Interior, Sarfraz Bugti, emphasises that the mass deportations are a part of putting Pakistan’s house in order. Having hosted four million refugees for over four decades, Pakistan is now focused on legalising the stay of those who wish to remain in the country, ensuring that the process is aligned with its laws and security interests.
The IEA’s denial of their involvement in TTP’s activities notwithstanding, the rise in terrorism and the group’s attacks on Pakistani soil underscore the urgency for Pakistan to neutralise this threat. The repatriation initiative is not only about addressing the security situation but also a strategic move to exert pressure on Kabul to rein in the TTP, demonstrating that both countries need to work collectively to eradicate cross-border terrorism.
As Afghanistan is gradually moving towards peace after years of conflict, the repatriation of Afghan nationals should be seen as a positive step. The return of these individuals to their homeland aligns with the broader narrative of Afghanistan’s restoration to stability, presenting an opportunity for them to contribute to the rebuilding process.
In the midst of these complex developments, the recent visit of the Acting Commerce Minister of IEA to Pakistan emerges as a significant and multifaceted development. This visit, however, unfolds against the backdrop of General Mobeen’s accusation of Pakistan supporting the TTP, adding layers of intensity to the geopolitical landscape and increasing pressure on Pakistan in the context of repatriating Afghan citizens.
Concurrently, the trilateral talks between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan signify a shared commitment to regional connectivity and economic cooperation. Led by a high-level IEA delegation, these discussions revolved around advancing the Trans-Afghan project—an ambitious 760-kilometer rail line that is set to connect the three countries. Scheduled for completion by 2027, this transformative initiative holds the potential to foster trade, attract investments, and enhance overall connectivity for the mutual benefit of the entire region. This convergence emphasises the intricate dynamics at play in the region.
While accusations and geopolitical tensions persist, the commitment to economic collaboration through projects like the Trans-Afghan railway suggests a nuanced approach, recognising the need for both dialogue and concrete initiatives.
However, looking beyond the blame game, Pakistan’s consistent pursuit of negotiations and efforts to address the TTP’s complex socio-political aspirations and demands over Erstwhile FATA underscores a commitment to resolving issues. Yet, the sympathy for TTP within the IEA is notable which is rooted in a nationalist approach supported by certain factions, perceiving the TTP as a potential leverage or a ‘bargaining chip’ against Pakistan.
Moreover, the ideological parallels between the IEA and TTP, rooted in Pakistan’s historical alliance with the United States during the Afghan War, create a permissive stance on TTP’s actions within Pakistan. This stance persists despite Pakistan’s concerns conveyed to the IEA, where lower ranks show attempts to align with the TTP in various activities.
Here, pertinently the tension between policy imperatives and shared ideology becomes particularly evident in the IEA-TTP relationship. Despite efforts to prevent Afghan territory from being used against Pakistan, the shared ideological underpinnings necessitate a delicate balancing act. Pakistan’s active rehabilitation of conflict zones and calls for the Afghan government to address the TTP issue highlight a genuine commitment to finding a resolution.
While the current events underscore the complexities in the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship, involving economic, security, and ideological dimensions, the delicate balance between policy imperatives and certain ideologies continues to shape the dynamics between the two nations, revealing a nuanced picture beyond the surface-level blame game.
Despite recent public tensions between Pakistan and the IEA government, the recent trilateral talks showcase a willingness to engage and find common ground. Pakistan’s Minister of Commerce, Gohar Ejaz, emphasised the bright prospects for economic ties and regional connectivity, highlighting that collective action against terrorism is essential for unlocking the full potential of regional trade.

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Hence, Pakistan’s repatriation process is a multifaceted strategy aimed at addressing both internal security concerns, particularly the TTP threat, and fostering economic stability in collaboration with Afghanistan and other regional partners. As the post-war Afghan landscape transforms towards peace, the return of Afghan nationals to their homeland aligns with the broader themes of regional cooperation and stability. In this geopolitical waltz, can Pakistan and Afghanistan find a shared rhythm, moving beyond discord, toward a future of cooperation, transcending the shadows of history? The stage is set, and as the spotlight dims, the lingering question hangs in the air: Will this chapter conclude with a resolution that reshapes the future, or is it just another chapter in the enduring saga of regional dynamics?