The announcement that requires quick repatriation of 1.6 million refugees came after Afghan leaders hailed Donald Trump's tweet which blamed Islamabad for sheltering Taliban factions fighting US and Afghan soldiers in Afghanistan.

Pakistan hosts over 2.7 million legal and illegal Afghan refugees, making it the third-largest refugee hosting country in the world.
Pakistan hosts over 2.7 million legal and illegal Afghan refugees, making it the third-largest refugee hosting country in the world. (AFP Archive)

Pakistan has given over a million Afghan refugees until the end of the month to leave the country, in an announcement on Wednesday, following US accusations that Islamabad shelters some of the fiercest factions of the Taliban fighting US and Afghan soldiers in neighbouring Afghanistan. 

The announcement made by the National Security Committee and approved by the federal cabinet comes after the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, accused Islamabad of playing "a double game for years" and confirmed that US will withhold $255 million in aid to the country.

"Pakistan's economy had carried the burden of hosting Afghan refugees since long and in the present circumstances could not sustain it further," the cabinet statement said. 

The announcement requires 1.6 million Afghan refugees, who lost their legal status on December 31, 2017, to move back to Afghanistan, where Afghan Taliban have been gaining territory and carrying out major attacks.

The Pakistani cabinet was considering a proposal for granting one-year extension in the Proof of Registration (POR) Cards for the refugees under a tripartite agreement with Afghanistan and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 

Decision linked to US threats

Earlier on Monday, US President Donald Trump tweeted that Pakistan deceived and lied to the US despite receiving billions of dollars from Washington in aid. 

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja immediately dismissed Trump's comments as a political stunt borne out of frustration over US failures in Afghanistan.

But Trump's words drew praise from Pakistan's old foe, India, and neighbouring Afghanistan

TRT World spoke to Islamabad-based journalist Kamran Yousaf , who said the fate of the Afghan refugees in Pakistan was sealed by Trump's angry tweet.

Blame game

Afghanistan and Pakistan are at odds over US and Afghan accusations that Islamabad is harboring factions of Taliban, which was overthrown in 2001 by a US invasion. 

Those include the Haqqani group, which the US government has declared a "terrorist" organisation.

Pakistan says militants belonging to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP ), behind a long list of deadly assaults on civilians and the military in Pakistan, get support from Afghanistan and India.  

Pakistan hosts over 2.7 million legal and illegal Afghan refugees who have fled decades of conflict in Afghanistan. 

"Security assistance" to Pakistan

The Trump administration has been informing members of Congress that it will announce as soon as Wednesday plans to cut off "security assistance" to Pakistan, congressional aides said.

Aides in two congressional offices said the State Department called on Wednesday to inform them that it would announce on Wednesday or Thursday that aid was being cut off, although it was not clear how much, what type or for how long.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders declined to say whether an announcement was imminent. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Many members of the US Congress, particularly Republicans, who control both houses of the legislature, have been critical of the Pakistani government and called for cuts in military and other aid.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies