PESHAWAR - The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPk) government Thursday warned unregistered Afghan nationals to return to Afghanistan immediately, otherwise a crackdown would be launched to forcefully deport them to their country. The deadline expires today (Friday), meaning that the action can be started any time in the coming days.

According to official estimates, some one million unregistered Afghan nationals have been living in Pakistan illegally, out of whom 60 per cent reside in KPk alone. The provincial capital Peshawar hosts approximately 400,000 of them. However, any action to deport them to Afghanistan has not been taken so far because relationship with the Afghan government and some administrative hurdles are making the move impossible.

However on Thursday, KPk Home Department while issuing a statement once again warned the unregistered Afghan nationals to immediately leave for their motherland or face a stern legal action.

“All the unregistered Afghans, who do not possess ‘Proof of Registration’ (PoR) cards should go back, otherwise, they would be arrested, as KPk government has planned to launch a crackdown against such Afghans soon.”

There is a huge difference between the unregistered Afghan nationals and the Afghan refugees. Unregistered Afghans are those who have been living in Pakistan illegally and do not have proper documentation and registration, while the Afghan refugees are of those who have been living with having PoR cards.

Official sources said the KPk government was all set to restart a crackdown against unregistered Afghans, as some of them were allegedly involved in illegal activities; therefore, sending them back to Afghanistan was a must.

As for as the Afghan refugees carrying POR Cards are concerned, they have also been warned to windup their activities and businesses by December 31, 2012 and start preparation for their home country because no Afghan refugee would be granted permission to stay in Pakistan by year-end, the Home Department added.

Officials said under an agreement among the Government of Pakistan, UNHCR and Afghanistan, the stay of 1.7 million Afghan refugees had been extended till December 31, 2012. So, the provincial government would not send back legal and registered Afghan refugees.

Time and again, the KPk government tried to launch a crackdown against such undocumented Afghan nationals, but relationships with Afghan government and some administrative hurdles were making the deportation impossible, sources said.

Officials said the local police would apprehend them under 14 Foreign Act for their certain deportation to Afghanistan.

Recalling a similar previous drive against such Afghans, they added that the district administration Peshawar had given a month-long deadline to them on April 25 to leave the city by May 25 or face action.  After the expiry of the deadline, only a few Afghans illegally staying in Peshawar left for Afghanistan.

Dozens of such families had reportedly shifted from Peshawar to Charsadda, Nowshera or Mardan so as to avoid any action against them; thus, the campaign did not produce any positive results.

Agencies add: Pakistan is currently home to over three million Afghan refugees, according to some statistics, while around 2.5 million refugees were believed to have returned to Afghanistan following the deployment of US-led Nato forces in the country.

While majority of the Afghan refugees are based in KPk and the adjoining Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), several thousand have also spread out to Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan in the years since the Afghan war.

Apart from the Afghans, nationals of Central Asian countries, including Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, have also reportedly been living in KPk and Fata and have, in some cases, disguised themselves as Afghan nationals.