Afghan refugees in Pakistan: Bleak Prospects

Despite being literate, many Afghan refugees can only expect to be labourers in Pakistan.

Maha Mussadaq September 08, 2011


Dressed primly in a white shirt and black pants, with his hair slicked back and an apron tied around his waist, 20-year-old Abdullah hurriedly cleans a dinner table with a rugged cloth. He says he hates his job, but has no choice but to stick to it.

Abdullah hails from Afghanistan but received his education in Pakistan. But despite being educated, he could not find a job commensurate with his skills. Thus he was resigned to working as a waiter in Islamabad’s Kabul restaurant.

“We [Afghan refuees] are all educated. Some of us went to Pakistani schools and some to Afghan school set up by Afghan settlers but that education did not help us get better jobs,” says Abdullah. “We can only be part of the labour class now, not in our own country and not in the host country.”

He adds, “We do not get good enough jobs to improve our standard of living, so like the rest of them we just remain in the either low income groups or even lower touching poverty.”

The plight of the Afghans who desire to get educated is significant. Roughly 30,000 of them or more cross the border daily to come to Pakistan for economic, medical or trade purposes. Hundreds of Afghan children, who cannot avail the basic right of education in their own country, cross the border to Pakistan attend school and return in the evening. Most of them study in poorly equipped, substandard schools. Due to the natural disasters in Pakistan’s areas bordering Afghanistan, schools are constantly damaged and destroyed. In Balochistan, all schools are mud buildings and need constant repair.

Over the past decade with the increase in population, these refugees have not only been educated in Pakistan, but have been working and contributing to the economy of Pakistan. But apparently acquiring education bears no fruit for them. Due to Pakistan’s unstable political and economic situation, Afghan refugee children are not really getting much in return for the education that they strive to get. Where some children might get the opportunity to attend schools and learn the basics, all most can expect is a life of menial work.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2011.


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