Islamabad (AP) — Afghanistan urged Pakistan on Wednesday to stop arresting Afghan refugees, after 250 were detained by counterterrorism officials and other agencies for not having travel documents.
Millions of Afghans fled to Pakistan during the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation of their country, creating one of the world’s largest refugee populations. Since then, Pakistan has been hosting Afghans, urging them to register with the United Nations and local authorities to avoid risk of deportation.
Afghanistan’s embassy in Islamabad said the ongoing apprehension of refugees in the capital, the garrison city of Rawalpindi and neighboring areas persists.
A diplomatic delegation met police to discuss the issue and learned that law enforcement officials have detained 250 refugees in recent days, including those with U.N.-backed documents giving temporary legal stay in Pakistan and freedom of movement.
The embassy said it is working toward clarifying the legal status of the detained Afghans and expediting their release.
“The Govt of I.R of Pak is urged to cease the arrest of Afg refugees & officially address its concerns, as it can adversely impact bilateral relations btw the two nations,” it said in a tweet.
The embassy also confirmed that a female athlete, Arzoo Ahmadi, was briefly detained in southern Sindh province. She was in Pakistan taking 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 later released.
More than 1 million registered Afghan refugees live in Pakistan, although the numbers entering the country leaped after the Taliban swept back to power in Afghanistan in August 2021.
Over 100,000 Afghans have arrived in Pakistan to avoid persecution at home, although the Taliban have announced a pardon and urged them not to leave the country.
Last December, images of locked up Afghan children in a Karachi prison caused outrage. They were among at least 1,200 Afghan nationals detained in multiple raids for entering the southern port city without valid travel documents.
The detentions underscored the strained relations between the two neighbors. Clashes have erupted at border towns and both countries accuse each other of not doing enough to combat militancy.