Islamabad announced on Thursday that at least 44,000 Afghans, who have been approved for relocation to Western countries following the Taliban's takeover, remain in limbo in Pakistan. In the chaotic aftermath of the NATO-backed government's collapse in August 2021, over 120,000 individuals, predominantly Afghans, were evacuated from Kabul. Since then, hundreds of thousands more have escaped Taliban rule, with many expecting to start new lives in the nations that participated in their country's 20-year occupation.

Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the Pakistani foreign office spokesperson, revealed that three years on from the Taliban's ascent, there are still 25,000 Afghans in Pakistan approved for relocation to the US. Additionally, 9,000 Afghans in Pakistan have been accepted by Australia, 6,000 by Canada, 3,000 by Germany, and over 1,000 by Britain, all awaiting relocation. Baloch urged these countries to accelerate the approval and visa issuance process to expedite the relocation of these individuals.

Most countries closed their Afghan embassies as Kabul fell, leading to many Afghan migrants being temporarily housed in Pakistan while their cases were processed by the Islamabad embassies. Many Afghans who were promised relocation were part of the foreign-backed government and fear retribution from the Taliban authorities. Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif recently discussed the backlog of Afghans awaiting relocation and the large number of refugees without onward travel plans with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.

Sharif emphasized that the international community must acknowledge the burden Pakistan is carrying by hosting such a large refugee population and should demonstrate collective responsibility. Approximately 600,000 Afghans have entered Pakistan since the Taliban's takeover, with millions more having fled to Pakistan over the previous four decades due to various conflicts. Despite this, Islamabad has been actively removing large numbers of undocumented Afghans since last year, leading to over half a million returning to Afghanistan due to fears of arrest.

On Wednesday, Islamabad announced an extension of the stay rights for registered Afghan refugees for another year but reiterated its commitment to repatriating those without proper documentation.