Pakistan urged to stop arresting Afghan refugees after recent arrest of 250 people

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Afghanistan on Wednesday urged Pakistan to stop arresting Afghan refugees, after 250 of them were detained by counterterrorism officials and other agencies for failing to travel documents.

Millions of Afghans fled to Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of their country from 1979 to 1989, creating one of the largest refugee populations in the world. Pakistan has since taken in Afghans, urging them to register with the United Nations and local authorities to avoid any risk of deportation.

The Afghan Embassy in Islamabad said the continued arrest of refugees in the capital, the garrison town of Rawalpindi and neighboring areas persists.

A diplomatic delegation met with police to discuss the matter and learned that law enforcement had detained 250 refugees in recent days, including those with UN-backed documents granting temporary legal stay in Pakistan and the freedom of movement.

The embassy said it was working to clarify the legal status of Afghan detainees and expedite their release.

“The Pak IR government is urged to cease arresting Afg refugees and formally address their concerns as this may negatively impact bilateral relations between the two nations,” he said. in a tweet.

The embassy also confirmed that a female athlete, Arzoo Ahmadi, was briefly detained in the southern province of Sindh. She was in Pakistan to take part in a martial arts event and was arrested by police on Tuesday morning for not having travel documents. It was reported that she was taken to a women’s shelter and then released.

More than one million registered Afghan refugees live in Pakistan, although the number entering the country jumped after the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021.

More than 100,000 Afghans have arrived in Pakistan to avoid persecution in their country, despite the Taliban announcing a pardon and urging them not to leave the country.

Last December, images of Afghan children locked up in a prison in Karachi caused outrage. They were among at least 1,200 Afghan nationals detained in several raids for entering the southern port city without valid travel documents.

The detentions underlined the strained relations between the two neighbors. Clashes have broken out in border towns and the two countries accuse each other of not doing enough to combat militancy.

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