The influx of Afghan refugees into Pakistan

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As if our economic issues were not enough, the Afghan people have also added to our financial woes and burden as they are flocking to Pakistan  due to  food shortage and denial of human rights at home after the  fall of Kabul to Taliban in August last year. Since the take-over by Taliban,  Afghanistan has gradually been inching economic catastrophe and social breakdown as situation has reached to an alarming level with very little food available to Afghanistan people.

Work and livelihood opportunities have shrunk under Taliban regime due to which they are running to neighbouring countries particularly Pakistan and Iran to seek refuge from the inhuman conditions at home. In this backdrop, once again our country is facing the influx of Afghan refugees as their country is being pillaged by the Taliban due to which a stream of Afghan refugees are entering Pakistan, which is already reeling under mammoth economic crisis including food shortage.

Ordinary people in Afghanistan are ravaged by war and perturbed over their destruction and dislocation, they want peace but the Taliban are persisting with their militant and extremist views.

Every day, the Taliban high command in Afghanistan come up with new harsher steps denying human rights to its people, mostly women and girls, who  have been asked to even cover their faces when getting out of their homes and also to be escorted by their male members of the family when stepping out of their home.

Doors of education and sports have also been closed on them while employment opportunities have been taken away from them. These circumstances are forcing them leave their soil.

According to the UN refugee agency, there are over two and half lakh  Afghans who have arrived in Pakistan, seeking asylum, since the start of  last year. The overall number of Afghan refugees in the country is very high and these people who are devastated by the Taliban takeover are in need of international protection, food and shelter. As the Afghanistan soil is being used by a number of  militant groups like the IS-Khorasan chapter etc as confirmed by the UN report,  what is feared is that militants may enter Pakistan under the disguise of asylum seekers and hence it becomes urgent that there should be  a procedure to register and document the refugees. Though it is reported that the UN refugee agency has contacted Pakistan government and are devising a strategy to find a way forward on documentation of Afghan refugees, but the process is yet to be initiated.

The coalition government is also aware of this grave issue of the influx of Afghan refugees and the cabinet recently gave approval to  a  comprehensive policy under which, the government will issue transit visas to these refugees for  entering Pakistan  legally so that the documentation process is made easy both for Pakistan government and for facilitating the asylum seekers.

As per available information, there are an estimated 1.3 million documented and  as many undocumented Afghans in Pakistan, with KPK their main destination as this province has been serving as a gateway to  Afghanistan, so they find it easy to settle down in this province.

However, they are  live in big number in Quetta and Karachi as well. And in the wake of current volatile situation in their country, majority of these Afghan refugees have no plans to return to their homes. It is not that in Pakistan they are provided with all their needs because they mainly live in places where they face many problems but they say that the conditions over here are much better as compared to their homeland.

At least they find job opportunities mostly labour, and free basic education here which is available to them in their home country.

Besides KP province, the mega city of Karachi is also hosting over  three lakh of Afghan refugees, most of them working  as laborers in Pashtun-dominated localities of the city. Many of them are living in Karachi since the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1980 and their new generation which has been raised in Pakistan shows no interest in going back to their country due to economic crisis and also other issues, saying there is nothing for them in Afghanistan  as working opportunities are unable, the youth and girls are unable to go to schools and colleges and the businesses are in deficit and many are closed for ever. However, there is one more aspect to their presence in Pakistan and that is with them the militants also sneak into Pakistan under the disguise of the refugees and that is the real issue which needs to be addressed.

It is due to this factor, that Pakistani people have been blaming the Afghan refugees for the increase in gun culture, drug use, violence and other militants and terrorists activities in the country.

It has also been reported that quite a good number of them have become naturalized Pakistanis since they are living here since 1980 and have Pakistani citizens through fake ID cards, due to which some analysts fear that they might influence upon the demographics of some constituencies in Quetta and Karachi.