Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told the National Assembly on Monday that some 100,000 foreigners live illegally in the slum settlements around Islamabad, and many of them were criminals.

“If I reveal the real facts to you, many among you will have sleepless nights,” the minister said in a grave voice during the Question Hour.

“They are involved in all kinds of crime in the federal capital,” he added, without elaborating, when asked about the nature of their crimes. But he did mention Bari Imam and the D-12 sector as their favourite abodes.

That could be a startling disclosure only to the recently elected MNAs. For the ordinary citizens of Islamabad, the presence of the ‘dreadful foreign criminal elements’ in their midst has been common knowledge, and a menace, for long.

“Soon after taking over the charge of my ministry, I initiated a registration process of the people living in katchi abadis, which, after a few hiccups, has been completed,” Chaudhry Nisar informed the house with visible satisfaction.

“In the beginning, people with vested interests created the impression that the registration wasn’t possible, and that if pushed the effort would result in an ugly law and order situation in the city.

“Undeterred by such misgivings, we directed the police officials to complete the registration process or face the music,” said the minister, ruing that successive governments paid no attention to the mushroom growth of the illegal settlements on the fringes of Islamabad.

Now the interior ministry was mulling the options to best deal with the problem of unwanted men in the city, according to the minister.

Without identifying the nationalities of the unwanted foreigners, the minister informed the National Assembly that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) would be asked to help repatriate them to their native countries.

But the minister accepted that it would be a difficult task.

Already his ministry is working on a project to keep the ‘foreigners’ under surveillance and monitor their “each and every activity”.

Additionally, the ministry is considering setting up special pickets outside the slums to keep a constant watch on the goings on there.

Sources in the interior ministry and local administration told Dawn that the suspect ‘foreigners’ mostly belong to Afghanistan and had been living around Islamabad for quite some time.

“That is why it wouldn’t be easy for the government to uproot them. The notorious Afghani Basti in I-11 is a case in point. Other foreign nationals in the category belong to African and central Asian countries,” the sources said.

According to a city police officer, Afghan refugees have organised gangs and are mainly responsible for crimes in the capital city, such as car lifting, planned robberies and kidnappings for ransom. African nationals mostly go for drug trafficking and fake currency business, he said.

However, the interior minister did not agree with PTI MNA Dr Arif Alvi that unwanted foreigners could also be hiding in the private security agencies but promised “a full-fledged inquiry” into the possibility.

“I assure the house that I will involve all intelligence agencies, including the ISI, to determine whether any agency in the security business employs foreigners and take it to task if it does,” the minister said reassuringly.