'Harassed' Afghan refugees fleeing Pakistan in aftermath of Peshawar school attack

Published: February 26, 2015
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A file photo of Afghan refugees.PHOTO: AFP

A file photo of Afghan refugees.PHOTO: AFP

The hearts of the nation broke on December 16, 2014, when the Tehreek-e-Taliban launched an attack on Peshawar’s Army Public school, killing over 150 people, 133 of whom were students.

With heavy hearts though, the nation came closer together, with a stronger resolve to rid the country of terrorism.

However, int he aftermath of the attack, the situation now has become even more grim for Afghan refugees in the country, according to the BBC.

The attack has prompted locals to assert pressure on Afghan refugees, forcing them to migrate to Afghanistan with little or none of their belongings.

Read: K-P may expell 294 Afghan prayer leaders soon: sources

The government, however, denies that there is any plan to remove Afghans from their soil.

Abdul Samad, an Afghan refugee in Peshawar, claims he was assaulted, which has forced him to move out of the country with his new bride and family.

“I was asleep at home with my wife; my brother and mother were also sleeping in their rooms,” he says. “That night the police came. They jumped over the wall of our house and came in asking how many of us were in the house.”

He said he was taken away after showing the police his identity card – which stated that he was Afghan.

Read: Main executor of Peshawar school attack captured: ISPR

“They beat me a lot that night. The next evening, we paid Rs35,000 for my release,” he said. Shortly after being released, he decided to leave Pakistan with his family.

Why would Afghan refugees be forced out of the country? Why would they be assaulted to a point where they have to make a choice to consciously move out of Pakistan?

Samad puts it simply: “When bomb blasts happen in Peshawar, Karachi or any other place in the country, they would accuse Afghans, saying all of them are Taliban.”

Read: Wounds from Peshawar: For injured APS survivors, Dec 16 has left many scars

Pakistan, nevertheless, says action is needed to be taken because there are militants hiding among the unregistered refugees.

Further, the provincial government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa asserts it has called for the repatriation of unregistered Afghans. The K-P police are reportedly arresting illegal refugees as well as carrying out an operation to “flush out militants”.

Samad and his family are just one example of being forced to move out of Pakistan. According to the BBC, Afghan officials have stated that between 150 to 300 families have migrated to Afghanistan following the devastating school attack.

Read: Head of 2nd squad of APS attackers arrested

Another man, Ghulam Nabi, said he had been imprisoned for eight days, and after his release, he decided to cross the border, taking with him his family and his belongings.

“There are indications that wherever they are concentrated, those places are being used as terrorist hideouts, and we have to take action on that,” Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said, according to Reuters.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has reported that more than 33,000 Afghans returned since January – a number that is one-and-a half times more than during all of 2014.

Read: 132 children killed in Peshawar school attack

Unfortunately, the IOM has also stated that it has only been able to assist 10% of the most needy from the lot that has migrated.

“Some of the returnees have cited harassment, arrests, detentions and evictions as the reasons for their return during interviews with UNHCR staff,” UN refugee agency UNHCR said.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • Liberal
    Feb 26, 2015 - 5:18PM

    One of the attackers of the APS was found living as an Afghan refugee. Let security forces do their work and flush out militants. Recommend

  • Rahul
    Feb 26, 2015 - 6:54PM

    this need to be reported to amnesty international.
    UN should also conduct plebiscite of the afghans if they want to leave.
    world community should take notice.Recommend

  • Khan Gul
    Feb 26, 2015 - 7:01PM

    @Liberal: The attacker was not living as an Afghan Refugee, he was living as a Pakistani IDP Refugee. Recommend

  • just_someone
    Feb 26, 2015 - 9:35PM

    We, Pakistanis, should hold ourselves to a higher standard as a nation and as a people.
    Yes, there are Afghans who have caused problems for us.
    But that doesnt mean all Afghans are like that. Most of them are immensely hard working people who have braved it through some really tough times and their ability to never give up is commendable. I think Pakistanis can learn a lot from the work ethic of the Afghans.
    Most Pakistanis criticize the West for generally treating Muslims unfairly because of a handful of bad eggs. I ask you, arent we doing the same with Afghans?Recommend

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