Running out of time: Fearing prosecution, Afghan refugees look towards home

Published: January 31, 2015
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According to officials, around 2,122 Afghan refugees have been arrested and deported from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa since December 17, 2014. PHOTO: EXPRESS

According to officials, around 2,122 Afghan refugees have been arrested and deported from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa since December 17, 2014. PHOTO: EXPRESS

PESHAWAR: Fearing prosecution in the ongoing crackdown, Afghan refugees residing in the provincial capital are migrating to their native country.

Afghan refugee Zakir Khan, a taxi driver residing in Shamshato Refugee Camp in Urmar, says his services are hired on a daily basis by people wanting to go to Torkham and Jalalabad to buy houses or land there.

“I see at least 200 trucks loaded with families and their belongings cross the Torkham border into Afghanistan each day,” he claims.

“We are in a permanent state of panic in Pakistan. I meet people who have large businesses in Lahore, but even of the Afghans residing legally in Pakistan, some are being expelled from Kashmir and Punjab,” he says. The taxi driver adds there is nowhere to turn to as people in their native country see the refugees as Taliban sympathisers, while Pakistan considers them a burden.

“Kabul is a good city for business, but in winter you cannot buy land to build a house there due to the snowfall.” He says adverse weather conditions force Afghans to buy land in Jalalabad city instead.

“Beef costs 320 Afghani (roughly Rs600) per kilogramme in Jalalabad and Kabul,” he says. “Nearly everything in the country costs twice as much despite the fact that jobs and business opportunities are scarce.”

Khan maintains the large-scale police crackdown is not only aimed at sending illegal refugees back to Afghanistan. “Even if you have proof of registration (PoR) cards, you have to pay [the police] a minimum of Rs300. Those living in Pakistan illegally are arrested and their watches, mobile phones and cash are confiscated before they are ultimately deported,” he adds.

Khan says it is inhumane to deport a single member of a family, while their loved ones and houses are left behind.

According to officials, around 2,122 Afghan refugees have been arrested and deported from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa since December 17, 2014, following the Army Public School attack in Peshawar a day earlier. The crackdown is still continuing.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2015.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • A J Khan
    Feb 1, 2015 - 11:24AM

    Afghan Refugees have misused Pakistan for more than three decades. They must go back to their country.
    To protect their jobs and secure their perks and privileges, UNHCR officers in connivance with Afghan Refugee Commissionerate encourage refugees to stay in Pakistan. We condemn these selfish acts of UNHCR and Afghan Refugees Commissionerate .

    Recommend

  • Anon
    Feb 1, 2015 - 11:30AM

    why this crackdown……after all Pakistan was created for Muslims……

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  • a&a
    Feb 1, 2015 - 12:51PM

    They never gonna leave here, as they have lucrative business, property land, family ties with the local and Pakistani CINC plus Passport. They are much more well off than Most of Pakistani citizens. Here it’s more than Dubai to them.

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  • a&a
    Feb 1, 2015 - 12:54PM

    And their new generation speak more fluent punjabi, sindi than the locals

    Recommend

  • Khan
    Feb 1, 2015 - 8:20PM

    @Anon:

    You forgot to add two points bro,

    1) for the Muslims of undivided India who had a choice to settle here or stay back.

    2) it’s not 1947 so even that period has passed generations ago.

    It was never meant for every one from across the globe like the State of Israel.

    Millions of refugees at a time when we are over populated and lack all amenities with insecurity is not a very brilliant idea.

    Recommend

  • usman
    Feb 1, 2015 - 9:45PM

    We should treat them with respect and politeness but ultimately repatriate them. As for indians taking potshots, we hosted 4 million for 40 years out of muslim brotherhood…. can you name another country that has done the same? And since you want so much realtionship with afghanistan, we can drop them off at Wagah…

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  • Jatoi
    Feb 1, 2015 - 10:29PM

    Please deport more from Karachi and interior Sindh

    @Anon Afghan nationalist don’t even consider Pakistanis as Muslim, they look down on us racially

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  • Feb 1, 2015 - 11:04PM

    These refugees need to be sent to their Patron, Hindustan.
    Just have special trains and sent them over. Hindu hospitality
    is waiting for them at the border.

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  • Pakistani
    Feb 1, 2015 - 11:13PM

    We have to treat Afghans fairly, respectfully and legally. Whilst they should be repatriated, this should be done in a humane and organised way.

    We should work with UNHCR and Intrenational community to ensure they have places to stay and means to support themselves until they are back on their feet in Afghanistan.

    For any Pakistani police harrassing or taking illegal payments my message is simple – stop immediately and treat thesee people with respect while you are implmenting the law.Recommend

  • hellodrsoul
    Feb 2, 2015 - 12:03AM

    @Anon:
    Because India was created as a secular state but then babri mosque was legally decided to be ram bhoomi in a secular state. Muslims were burnt alive and a son of RSS is elected PM of the secular India who is a known killer of thousands of Muslims….

    Recommend

  • hellodrsoul
    Feb 2, 2015 - 12:07AM

    Please speed it up. Peshawar is comparatively calm since last 40 days.

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  • straightshooter
    Feb 2, 2015 - 12:10AM

    @usman:
    LOL !! Beyond Wagah, you needn’t tell an Afghan what to do !! They have an inherent tendency to manage very well beyond that point !!

    Recommend

  • Ali S
    Feb 2, 2015 - 12:24AM

    @A J Khan:

    Really? You have the nerve to say that they’ve misused Pakistan for more than three decades when Pakistan is the one fighting a proxy war there for the same period of time? Sure, Afghan refugees are a thankless burden with nothing positive to contribute to our society (heroin and Kalashnikovs were unheard of until they came), I won’t deny that, but there’s a two-way answer to why they’re here.

    P.S. I’m not Afghan nor Pashtun, so save your racist comments

    Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Feb 2, 2015 - 12:53AM

    @Lahore wala:

    Lets not lose our humanity.

    It is precisely at these difficult times, the true character of a nation comes out.

    We must treat Afghans with repect, dignity and above all legally.

    My request to Afghans in Pakistan is to also abide by the laws please.

    If you are mistreated, please report it to the police or the press.

    We wish you the best.

    Recommend

  • Asad
    Feb 2, 2015 - 3:09AM

    Afghan refugees that have grown up in Pakistan have a right to Pakistani citizenship.The have contributed to the economy and local workforce for over four decades. For the most part they are law abiding citizens. Imagine how we would feel if Europe and the US and Canada kicked out all Muslims after a terrorist attack, or at least all Pakistanis since that is where most terrorists allegedly receive their training. Being a civilized state is treating people with compassion and sub-humanely. The time is ripe to give the their due, they are Pakistanis, and let us document them as such.

    Recommend

  • Meheryar Sheikh
    Feb 2, 2015 - 7:13AM

    @AJ Khan:

    ‘To protect their jobs and secure their perks and privileges, UNHCR officers in connivance with Afghan Refugee Commissionerate encourage refugees to stay in Pakistan. We condemn these selfish acts of UNHCR and Afghan Refugees Commissionerate .’

    Actually it’s to comply with international law and out of compassion for humanity.

    I’ve heard reading books helps remedy illiteracy :)

    Recommend

  • Khan
    Feb 2, 2015 - 7:55AM

    @Asad:

    They are refugees and must go back .. Please do not mix that with those who might come here on any other Visa.
    Try asking any of those developed or brotherly States to accommodate a few millions of us with free education, healthcare, right to buy businesses and properties without contributing to the economy and you will get your answers.

    I am a dual national and had to pay in millions to get education here and then had to pay more than half of my earnings every year to get citizenship here.
    It’s a right one must earn not give it away in alms else no one will respect it.

    Recommend

  • Atheist_Pakistani
    Feb 2, 2015 - 8:58AM

    Why don’t we just deport them to India? Doesn’t India have a good relationship with Afghans? There was a article months published here where an Afghan was talking about India on great a country it is and how many more opportunities there are there compared to Pakistan. Why doesn’t India welcome them? A lot of love to the Afghan is being shown here in the comments by Indians. Hilarious ;D

    Recommend

  • usman
    Feb 2, 2015 - 9:10AM

    @straightshooter…. true ;-)

    Recommend

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