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Editorial: Ownership dispute

Based on recent reports, Pakistani police have evicted 180 Afghans while beating them from a market located in Peshawar city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Afghans, who had been in possession of the outlets for decades, were evicted supposedly in compliance with a verdict of the Peshawar High Court (PHC). The Firdous Market has been the property of the Bank-i-Millie Afghanistan which collected rent of the shops from their occupants while paying taxes as well. Despite a representative of the Afghan Consulate General in Peshawar had reached the site and asked for a stop to the police raid, it was to no avail. Moreover, the country insulted and hurt Afghans’ national identity by bringing down the Afghan Flag from the premises twice. The flag was once, however, re-hoisted by Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan. Meanwhile, the ambassador closed down the Afghan consulate in Peshawar in retaliation to the raid of Afghan Market. The consulate will remain closed permanently in case Pakistani police raids on Afghan-owned shops and markets continue in Peshawar and until the Pakistani government assures of no replication in this regard. Currently, this case of vacating the shops, outrageous removal of Afghan Flag and irresponsible acts by Pakistan seem to be politically-motivated and have some underlying motives.

Moreover, several civil society activists during a protest in front of the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul termed the raid and downing of Afghanistan’s flag at the Afghan Market as an insult to Afghans and asked Pakistan to reinstall the flag and apologize for the incident. This outrageous move by Pakistan in a way threatens all the Afghan businessmen – who own many markets and lands – currently living in Peshawar and other areas. The provincial government has seemingly made a unilateral decision regarding the long-standing dispute over the market’s ownership because the court has reportedly not considered the documents and legal justifications of the Afghan side. It is obvious that the premises are the sole property of Afghanistan and have been its possession for decades. The Afghan government should handle this situation with the utmost care and take it up with Pakistan, as well as appeal to upper tiers of courts, to find out the truth of the matter in order to protect its citizens and possessions in Pakistan. The prompt action of closing the consulate must be reconsidered to make sure whether it’s effective or otherwise making difficulties for Afghan refugees living there. On the Pakistani government’s part, it should keep in mind that both countries share closely-knit ties – which become instantly stained because of such irresponsible moves – and have recently been on a path mending their ties. The Torkham crossing’s inauguration to operate 24/7 is an example of such strengthened ties. Therefore, the country shouldn’t carry out such uncivilized and undiplomatic acts –against neighborly norms – which are merely a means of venting out its political frustration. Pakistan should stop considering these acts as pressure tools to reach their concealed goals.

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