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Pakistan orders undocumented migrants out of the country by Nov. 1.


Pakistani officials have announced that all undocumented migrants must leave the country by November 1.


Pakistan's interior minister said those that do not leave by the deadline will have their property and assets seized and face arrest and deportation. Pakistan has taken in hundreds of thousands of migrants from neighboring Afghanistan in the last few years. Around 1.7 million unregistered Afghans are currently living in the country. Some have been in Pakistan for decades.

MARTÍNEZ: For more on this, we're joined now by journalist Ahmed Quraishi, who is in Islamabad. So what's the reason why Pakistan is doing this, and why now?

AHMED QURAISHI: I think a lot of it has to do with the politics and the relationship between these two countries. And I think it's at the lowest point right now. There's a lot of tension between these two countries, things that have to do with Pakistani militants who are operating, according to Pakistani officials, inside Afghanistan, and the interim Taliban government is not doing enough to curb them. And so all of that is really reflecting on the way, possibly, Pakistan is treating now the Afghan refugees. But the point is, right now, whatever you see between these two countries, whatever you see happening with regards to Afghan refugees in Pakistan has a lot to do with the bad relationship between Kabul and Islamabad.

MARTÍNEZ: You know, considering that Afghans, you know, are the primary target here, I mean, how has the Taliban government in Kabul responded?

QURAISHI: Well, they're not happy. Pakistan is the main commercial and economic outlet for Afghanistan. It's a landlocked country, as you know. So they're not very happy. And just yesterday, we had this very alarming incident at one of the crossings on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, where, according to Pakistani military's statement, an Afghan border security guard opened fire on Pakistanis entering Afghanistan. A couple of people died. One of them is a 12-year-old. Pakistan did not respond, open fire because, according to the statement, they did not want more collateral damage, and that's the word they used. So it's a very, very tense situation.

A lot of people here in Pakistan also are watching how Pakistan would really implement its decision to expel people who do not leave voluntarily by the 1 of November - so how it's going to happen. It's a huge number. There are at least 1.7 million, as you said. I can tell you in four decades since Pakistan started hosting Afghan refugees, never did we see the kind of tension we see right now between these two countries.

MARTÍNEZ: Have you heard from undocumented migrants, particularly Afghans, that are going to be impacted by this?

QURAISHI: I've been, for over a period of time, speaking to many of them, actually. And you have to understand one thing. I mean, four decades of Afghan refugees in Pakistan - we have at least two or - to three generations of Afghans actually residing in Pakistan. Many of them know Pakistan as the only homeland. And, you know, I met kids - Afghan children of Afghan refugees - who are enamored with the country. They would like to join the Pakistani police, the Pakistani military, work in the Pakistani media. So there's a lot of closeness, so to speak, between these two countries, a lot of things that are common. It'll be fascinating to see how Pakistan really manages to disengage from Afghanistan after four decades.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Ahmed Quraishi, who is in Islamabad. Thank you very much.

QURAISHI: Thank you, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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