ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said on Thursday the government had decided to register all foreign nationals living in Pakistan.
The move comes as the interior ministry wants to track up to 50,000 people who entered the country in the seventies but whose whereabouts are unknown, Ahmed said, alleging that the government had recently arrested some Afghans who had fake ID cards.
Pakistan has provided millions of Afghans with refuge for decades.
“Interior Ministry has decided to register all foreign nationals, who so ever he maybe,” Ahmed told reporters in Islamabad. “Approximately 40 to 50 thousand people entered in Pakistan in last 70 years,” and authorities don’t know about them “so we are going to register all foreign nationals and have made visa process online.”
In April this year, Pakistan launched a nationwide verification exercise for 1.4 million Afghan refugees to distribute new Proof of Registration smart cards. Pakistan also hosts nearly a million undocumented Afghans.
Ahmed said Pakistan had allowed foreign nationals to open bank accounts and get cellular phone connections by showing their “alien cards,” issued under the National Alien Registration System to legally register, document immigrants and other foreign residents in the country.
He said some individuals making fake Afghan identity cards had been caught as well and “our effort will be to register every foreigner amid the currently developing situation [in the country].”
The interior minister said that around 40,000 to 50,000 unidentified people had entered the country in the past 70 years, adding that “we don’t know about their whereabouts”.
Foreigners living in Pakistan would be issued “alien cards”, which will allow them to open bank accounts, start businesses, obtain sim cards and facilitate their travel, Rashid said.
He added that foreigners could contact the interior ministry after their visa expires to continue availing these services.
The interior minister said all visa applications had been converted online and with the permission of the Cabinet visas are issued within 30 days.
“Agencies review the applications and if they don’t respond within 30 days, we issue the visas,” he added.
Rashid also addressed border management and said: “Chaman border will be made electronic from the first [of August].”
Regarding the 4,000-5,000 Pakistanis stranded at the Torkham border, he said the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) had given permission to open the border for vaccinated individuals.
“The NCOC and FC (Frontier Corps) will decide what to do about those who test positive [for Covid-19],” said the interior minister.
Responding to a question on the banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, Ahmed reiterated its case would be forwarded to and decided by the Cabinet this week.
The interior minister also spoke on the upcoming elections in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and predicted the PTI’s win, questioning the opposition’s ability to achieve electoral success.
“[Prime Minister] Imran Khan and the bat will win,” he said, adding that the people would vote for the prime minister in the next general election as well “and for that we will have to further improve our performance”.
The interior minister also announced that action would be taken against drug peddlers on a large scale. According to him, more drugs were being imported to Pakistan than were being being sent out.