The social action arm of the Catholic Church in Pakistan is preparing to help refugees from Afghanistan following the withdrawal of American troops in the country this week.
Amjad Gulzar, executive director of Caritas Pakistan, told AsiaNews that the organization is examining the situation and is ready to provide support to those most in need.
He said assistance will be provided following the Pakistani government’s guidelines.
Pakistan and Afghanistan share a border of 2,670 kilometers with refugees mostly crossing near the Pakistani city of Chaman.
Pakistani authorities have reportedly noted an “unprecedented” exodus of people from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of Kabul last month.
Pakistan is currently hosting about 1.5 million Afghan refugees.
Pakistani officials have already expressed concern over security in Afghanistan as the Taliban try to form a government following the departure of US and other foreign forces.
Islamabad is particularly worried about militant fighters from a separate, Pakistani Taliban group crossing from Afghanistan and launching lethal attacks on its territory.
Thousands of Pakistanis have been killed in jihadist violence in the last two decades.
Underlining the security threat within Afghanistan, in the last few days a suicide bombing claimed by an Afghan offshoot of Islamic State outside Kabul airport killed more than 100 people, including 13 US troops.
A rocket attack on the airport followed, and on Sunday militant gunfire from across the border in Afghanistan killed two Pakistani soldiers.
“The next two to three months are critical,” a senior Pakistani official said, adding that Islamabad feared a rise in militant attacks along the Afghan-Pakistan border, as the Taliban tried to fill a vacuum left by the collapse of Afghan forces and the Western-backed administration.
US officials have repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting the Afghan Taliban, which fought in a civil war in the mid-1990s before seizing power in 1996.
Islamabad, one of the few capitals to recognize the Taliban government that was toppled in 2001, denies the charge.
Pakistan’s government has said that its influence over the movement has waned, particularly since the Taliban grew in confidence once Washington announced the date for the complete withdrawal of US and other foreign troops.
The official, who has direct knowledge of the country’s security decisions, said Pakistan planned to send security and intelligence officials, possibly even the head of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, to Kabul to help the Taliban reorganize the Afghan military. – with additional report from Reuters