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Afghans complain of harassment in Pakistan

AT-KABUL: Following the terror attack on a military-run school in Peshawar last month, Pakistan has adopted a whole unique strategy to appease anger of the public instead of addressing the root cause.

Islamabad is using the Afghan refugees as scapegoats to divert attention of the nation from groups that kill Pakistanis on daily basis but at the same time are used as a tool to pursue strategic designs in the region.

Afghans living in the neighboring Pakistan are complaining that they are harassed by police on routine basis though the real culprits of attack on Army Public School were Pakistanis as intelligence sharing proved. Recently, Afghan intelligence arrested five people for having link to the attack on the army-administered school in Peshawar. They all were Pakistanis.

Police even detain those who have legal documents including visa and clearance from the special branch of police, but are released after talking bribe which is not only spoiling image of Pakistan but also deteriorated relations between public-to-public and public-to-government.

“It doesn’t matter if one has a refugee card or Pakistan’s visa on his passport. Pakistani police will stop you rudely and put you behind bars for nothing,” said Sayed Ahmad, an Afghan who recently went to Pakistan for medical treatment but was abused inhumanly.

Narrating his ordeal to Afghanistan Times, he said that he had Pakistani visa on his passport and police clearance but was stopped by police in Peshawar while on his way to North West Hospital in Hayatabad. “Visa has no value what really values is money. Police told me to pay bribe or go straight to the police station. They took 5,000 Pakistani rupees by force,” he lamented.

Regretting for visiting Pakistan for medical treatment, Ahmad said that he is really disappointed for the choice he made—going to Peshawar for treatment. “They took from me what I had for medicines. So I returned back without checkup.”

Afghans having visas of other countries, especially of India, are faced with extreme difficulties in Pakistan. They are asked to explain why they visited India. The culture of suspicion is making it difficult for Afghans who visited India to leave for Pakistan. Afghans mostly visit the two countries for medical care or business purpose.

Hajji Salim, an Afghan refugee in Pakistan, said that they have refugee cards but still police stop them and get from them what they earn after working hard the whole day. “Pakistani police break into our houses and detain all men. They release them after getting bribe. Life has become very tough,” he added.

After the Soviet Union’s invasion, more than two million Afghans sought refuge in Pakistan.

Scores of families forced to repatriate. Returning families could be spotted on Kabul-Torkham Highway. Ameer Muhammad, one of the returnees, told Radio Azadi that Pakistani police were conducting raids to harass them, take bribe, and force them to leave Pakistan. “Thus, all men were leaving their homes during night time in the fear of being caught by police for nothing,” he said. He added that even on their way to Afghanistan their truck was stopped and all the men were detained by Pakistani police, and were released after taking bribe.

Not only Afghans but Pakistanis who travel to Afghanistan with legal documents are also subjected to mental torture by Pakistani intelligence agencies.

A Pakistani who visited Kabul in December for search of a job told Afghanistan Times in a telephonic interview that he was interrogated for hours several times by Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of Pakistan at Torkham. On the condition not to be named due to fear of prosecution and further harassment, he said: “It is my right to visit foreign countries. I had valid visa but still they interrogated me and asked what I was doing there. They questioned me for hours and told me to work for them.”

He went on saying that he was surprised and disappointed to notice that he would be mentally tortured for visiting Afghanistan which is a brotherly country, as Islamabad also claims. “I was not going to Israel but to Afghanistan. The Pakistani government says that it enjoys good relations with the Afghan government but the reality is quite conflicting and opposite,” he said.

He added that the two countries should focus on improving bilateral ties while organizing cultural activities and people to people contacts.

Afghan refugees also blamed the incumbent government as well as the United Nations of turning blind eye towards miserable situation of Afghans in Pakistan.

Spokesman for the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR), Islamuddin Jurat, said that there are two types of refugees in Pakistan. “First, those who registered and they would face no harassment till 2015 and the second are those who don’t have legal documents,” he said.

He confirmed that around one million Afghan refugees who are not registered are harassed by police. “To resolve the issue, Afghanistan suggested a trilateral meeting between Kabul, Islamabad and the UNHCR. However, Pakistan turned down the request and said there will be no meeting until new minister of the refugees and repatriation assume charge,” he said.

When Afghanistan Times contacted the Afghan foreign ministry, the officials said that they are not part of the issue but it is responsibility of the MoRR.

It is worth to mention that Pakistan has hosted over two million refugees for several years. Thousands of Afghan refugees completed higher education in Pakistani universities and returned back to help in development of their country. Many people appreciate Islamabad for this generous support but asked the Pakistani government to direct the relevant authorities to refrain from harassing Afghans who are living legally or visiting Pakistani cities for medical treatment or visiting relatives while having valid travel documents.

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