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The plight of Afghan refugees

Crackdown against Afghans continues across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other parts of Pakistan. Though, Islamabad officially says it doesn’t encourage forcible repatriation of Afghan refugees but its mysterious silence on the plight of refugees has raised many eyebrows. Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan has assured Afghan ambassador Janan Mosazai that Afghan refugees wouldn’t be harassed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa—a province where Khan’s PTI has formed a coalition government. But this is what could be called diplomacy. What Afghan refugees say is quite different. Over 450 Afghan imams were held across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and deported via Torkham. The imams were blamed for hate speech in their sermons. The provincial government has kicked off registration process of religious seminaries to tackle militancy and the spread of jihadi literature. However, amid the process, police in the province have found a new excuse to harass Afghan nationals (both with documents and undocumented). The extreme happened when recently Peshawar police detained 28 Afghans including four diplomats. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government calls it crackdown against Afghan citizens residing illegally in the province but people in Afghanistan looks at the matter differently. Could the police officials and the government explain that how they consider Afghan diplomats? Are they residing illegally too? And if diplomats are being treated like this, what would be the status of commoner Afghans?

Consul General, Muhammad Ibrahimkhel took up the issue with police officials in the province and also informed Afghan ambassador Janan Mosazai regarding the arrest of Afghan diplomats who were detained in University Town Police Station. What is more concerning is the reticence of the Afghan government and foreign office. The government should take up the issue with Islamabad and also inform the United Nations regarding the haughty attitude of Pakistan’s law and order officials as detaining diplomats is a blatant violation of international diplomatic norms. Ibrahimkhel says that he was stopped by military police—responsible for cantonment area security, from proceeding to the Afghan consulate. He also says that hundreds of Afghan citizens are being sent behind the bars. What he says paint a gloomy picture and here at home we receive news of renewed relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Doesn’t it indicate at a biggest irony? The irony of being optimistic and running after mirage while on ground Afghans are being humiliated. If Pakistan is unwilling to host Afghan refugees anymore, it should officially inform Kabul and the United Nations about it but humiliating them to spur their repatriation is inhuman because the world belongs to human beings and they have the right of shelter and refuge anywhere around the world. Moreover, Pakistan hosts Afghan Taliban because they are its foreign policy assets while doesn’t hesitate from clamping down on Afghan refugees, whom Islamabad considers just the hoi polloi with no human rights. When their very much own government at home is silent why others should be concerned. This is a serious dilemma. This needs to be ended. Something substantial needs to be done—either making the government of Pakistan to accommodate Afghan refugees with respect or Kabul should start working right now to bring them back home with dignity. While at home, it’s a stark fact that those who return are not facilitated, which is why they don’t have any other option but to remain clinging to hosts countries even in the face of hardships.

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