‘Without hope’: Crackdown rattles Afghans in Pakistan

In this photo taken on September 21, 2023, Afghan women walk through an Afghan refugee camp in Karachi. (AFP)
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Updated 28 September 2023
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‘Without hope’: Crackdown rattles Afghans in Pakistan

  • At least 700 Afghans have been arrested since early September in Karachi alone and hundreds more in the other cities
  • People accuse police of extorting money and ignoring legal documents, while pointing to anti-Afghan sentiment in Pakistan

KARACHI: The cow had been slaughtered and bags of rice purchased but young bride Wahida’s nuptials were cut short when her groom was arrested on their wedding day, one of hundreds caught in a recent crackdown on Afghans living in Pakistan.
The 20-year-old now lives with her in-laws at the Afghan MuHajjir aid camp in the port mega-city of Karachi but without her husband-to-be, a registered refugee.
“We are without hope,” the groom’s mother, Safar Gul, told AFP. “The police took away our son. What can we do, they have the power.”
Faizur Rehman, 22, was arrested “just because he was Afghan,” another relative named Zulaikha said.
Afghans have poured into Pakistan in their millions during decades of successive wars, many living in aid camps with restricted access to education, health care and employment.




In this photo taken on September 21, 2023, an Afghan shopkeeper waits for customers at his shop at an Afghan refugee camp in Karachi. (AFP)

Around 1.3 million are registered refugees and 880,000 more have legal status to remain in Pakistan, according to the latest United Nations figures.
Police and politicians have said a recent round-up targets only those without legal status and is in response to rising crime and poor regulation of immigration that is straining resources.
At least 700 Afghans have been arrested since early September in Karachi alone — 10 times more than in August — and hundreds more in the other cities, according to official police figures.
Afghans say the arrests have been indiscriminate.
They accuse police of extorting money and ignoring legal documents, while pointing to rising anti-Afghan sentiment as prolonged economic hardship burdens Pakistani households and tensions rise between Islamabad and Kabul’s new Taliban government.




In this photo taken on September 21, 2023, Afghan children pose for photos at an Afghan refugee camp in Karachi. (AFP)

“We have been working day and night getting people released,” said Habibur Rehman, who fled Afghanistan in the 1980s during Soviet rule but now represents the Afghan government’s refugee ministry at the camp.
“There have been crackdowns every three, four years, but this time has been the worst.”
An estimated 600,000 Afghans have arrived since the Taliban seized power in Kabul in August 2021 and imposed their austere version of sharia or Islamic law.
Lawyers have said the police operation has been complicated by registration cards for vast numbers of documented Afghans expiring at the end of June, although their status remains in place until the government rules on their renewal.
Naqibullah, who lives in a rudimentary house in the camp, said he and his father handed over 46,000 rupees ($160) to avoid jail after they were picked up by police, despite being documented refugees with permission to legally remain in Pakistan.




In this photo taken on September 21, 2023, Afghan girls read the Qur'an at an Afghan refugee camp in Karachi. (AFP)

They were advised to keep a low profile to avoid re-arrest and stay away from the kiosk they run outside the camp.
“Leaving our business behind is never an easy decision but the fear is so overwhelming that I can’t even venture out to the market. We have no choice but to remain at home,” he said.
Pakistani lawyer Moniza Kakar said she can do little for Afghans who do not have documents, and that those recently deported include the sick and poor, as well as human rights defenders and women students.
More than 1,800 Afghans were deported from Karachi last year, city police said, and nearly 1,700 have been arrested so far in 2023.
But Kakar, along with the several other lawyers giving free legal help to Afghans, said the vast majority in this sweep are documented, compared to roughly a quarter rounded up in past crackdowns.
“Our action is purely aimed at illegal immigrants,” Karachi police chief Khadim Rind told AFP, adding that allegations of arrests of legal document holders and bribe-taking should be investigated.




In this photo taken on September 21, 2023, Karachi police chief Khadim Hussain Rind speaks during an interview with AFP in Karachi. (AFP)

Afghan consul general Syed Abdul Jabbar said Afghans in Pakistan were paying the price for disputes between Kabul and Islamabad.
Relations have soured since the Taliban government seized power, with a sharp rise in militant attacks along Pakistan’s border that Islamabad alleges are being planned on Afghan soil — a charge Kabul denies.
A long-running border dispute has also seen key trade crossings closed for days.
But these issues should be “sorted out at the negotiating table,” Jabber said. “A crackdown on Afghans is the wrong approach.”




In this photo taken on September 21, 2023, Consulate general of Afghanistan Syed Abdul Jabbar talks with AFP during an interview in Karachi. (AFP)

The pressure has seen some families sell what they can and return to Afghanistan, refugee community leaders said. Others were reluctant to uproot their lives to return to a country mired in its own economic crisis, despite the end of decades of fighting.
Day laborer Habib has been a refugee in Pakistan for more than half his life but says he lost his documentation several years ago.
“I have lived with more freedom here than in our own country,” the 76-year-old told AFP.
“We don’t have documents and we are afraid they will give us trouble, but we are obeying the law,” he said. “If they don’t forcefully kick us out, we won’t go to Afghanistan.”
 


Saudi delegation inspects facilities at Karachi airport for Makkah Route initiative

Updated 21 April 2024
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Saudi delegation inspects facilities at Karachi airport for Makkah Route initiative

  • The initiative allows for the completion of immigration procedures at the pilgrims’ country of departure
  • More than 60% of Pakistani pilgrims on government program are likely to benefit from the initiative this year

KARACHI: A two-member delegation from Saudi Arabia on Sunday visited the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi to inspect facilities there for the Makkah Route initiative aimed at facilitating local Hajj pilgrims, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) said.
Launched in 2019, the initiative allows for the completion of immigration procedures at the pilgrims’ country of departure. This makes it possible to bypass long immigration and customs checks upon reaching Saudi Arabia, which significantly reduces the waiting time and makes the entry process smoother and faster.
Pakistani pilgrims performing Hajj under the government scheme have been availing this facility at the airport in Islamabad for the last couple of years. But the government wants the initiative to be extended to other cities as well.
The two-member delegation, which was accompanied by officials of the Saudi consulate, was warmly welcomed by PCAA officials upon arrival at the Karachi airport.
“The purpose of their visit was to inspect the airport’s facilities and discuss the arrangements for the Route to Makkah project,” the PCAA said in a statement. “During their visit, APM (airport manager) provided the delegation with a comprehensive tour of the airport’s facilities.”
The delegation showed particular interest in the entry process for intending pilgrims and the allocation of immigration space, according to the PCAA. Other key points discussed were related to the allocation of an immigration hall, and differentiating between government and private scheme pilgrims.
Pakistan’s religious affairs ministry last month announced completion of a survey for the Makkah Route initiative at the Karachi airport ahead of the Hajj season.
The South Asian country expects more than 60 percent of pilgrims performing Hajj this year to benefit from the initiative. People opting for the private Hajj scheme can also avail the facility, given the tour operators providing them services have contacted the Pakistani religious ministry for the purpose.
Saudi Arabia last year restored Pakistan’s pre-pandemic Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims and abolished the upper age limit of 65 years. More than 81,000 Pakistani pilgrims performed Hajj under the government scheme in 2023, while the rest used private tour operators.
This year’s pilgrimage is expected to run from June 14 till June 19.


Chapman-inspired New Zealand shock Pakistan in third T20I

Updated 21 April 2024
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Chapman-inspired New Zealand shock Pakistan in third T20I

  • The 29-year-old left hander smashed a 42-ball 87 to anchor New Zealand’s chase of 179-run target in 18.2 overs
  • Shadab Khan (41) and Babar Azam (37) were main contributors in Pakistan’s 178-4 after the hosts were sent in to bat

RAWALPINDI: Mark Chapman hit a robust half century to help an under-strength New Zealand to a shock seven-wicket victory over Pakistan in the third Twenty20 international in Rawalpindi on Sunday.
The 29-year-old left hander smashed a 42-ball 87 to anchor New Zealand’s chase of 179-run target in 18.2 overs against the much vaunted Pakistan bowling attack, silencing a packed 16,000 holiday crowd.
Shadab Khan (41) and Babar Azam (37) were the main contributors in Pakistan’s 178-4 after the hosts were sent in to bat by New Zealand.
Tim Robinson hit 28 off 19 balls and Tim Seifert 21 off 16 to set the tone for New Zealand’s chase.
New Zealand were strongly-placed at 53-2 in the sixth over before Chapman and Dean Foxcroft (31) took over, adding a solid 117-run in a third wicket partnership to square the five-match series at 1-1.
Pakistan won the second game by seven wickets while the first match was washed out after just two balls — both were also in Rawalpindi.
Chapman, whose only T20I hundred came at the same venue last year, clobbered four sixes and nine fours in his eighth half century in the format. He was ably supported by Foxcroft.
Pakistan skipper Azam brought spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi on in the 15th over with 61 to defend, but Chapman cracked two fours. He then smashed two sixes and two more fours off Naseem Shah’s next over to bring the target down to 21 of 24 balls.
Fast bowler Abbas Afridi, 2-27, dismissed Foxcroft, but by then New Zealand were just nine away from victory. Chapman and Jimmy Neesham (six not out) reached the target with ten balls to spare.
Earlier Shadab hit two sixes and four fours while Azam hit four fours and a six.
Opener Saim Ayub scored a 22-ball 32 and Muhammad Irfan Khan chipped in with a 20-ball 30 not out as Pakistan added 54 in the last five overs.
Azam and left-hander Ayub gave Pakistan a brisk start of 55 as the duo played some aggressive shots.
Shadab and Irfan boosted the innings with a brisk 62-run stand for the fourth wicket.
For New Zealand, leg-spinner Ish Sodhi was the best bowler with 2-25.
The final two matches are in Lahore on April 25 and 27.
Both teams are preparing for June’s Twenty20 World Cup in the United States and the West Indies.


Pakistanis organize hike to demand ‘concrete steps’ for ceasefire in Gaza, aid delivery

Updated 21 April 2024
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Pakistanis organize hike to demand ‘concrete steps’ for ceasefire in Gaza, aid delivery

  • The event, organized by Save Gaza Campaign, was attended by politicians, civil society members, journalists and students
  • Organizers demand Pakistan demarche US envoy for supporting Israel in committing ‘war crimes’ against innocent Palestinians

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Pakistanis on Sunday organized a hike in the federal capital of Islamabad to reiterate their demands for the government to take “concrete steps” to pressure Israel for a ceasefire in Gaza and the establishment of a humanitarian assistance corridor to the war-torn territory.

The development came as the Palestinian health ministry said at least 34,097 people had been killed during more than six months of Israel’s war on Gaza. Another 76,980 people had been wounded in the Gaza Strip since the war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

The hike at Islamabad’s Trail 3 was organized by the Save Gaza Campaign, a civil society movement that advocates for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and attended by a large number of Pakistanis, including politicians, civil society members, journalists and students.

“Today, we have organized this hike through which we want to give this message that we will talk about Gaza,” Humaira Tayyaba, one of the organizers of the event, told Arab News.

“We are hiking to raise awareness about the real issue and to what extent we can go for this issue, so they [Pakistani youth] can know of it through this informal way.”

The organizers said their protests had been entirely peaceful and had drawn the attention of Pakistanis across the country.

“Our campaign, Save Gaza, started on 13th November and we have been continuously organizing peaceful protests,” Tayyaba said. “Our campaign is moving forward with more Pakistani people joining and emotionally connecting with Palestine.”

Mushtaq Ahmed, a former Pakistani senator, speaks ahead of the Save Gaza campaign walk through Margalla Hills trail in Islamabad on April 21, 2024, to demand a "ceasefire" in the Gaza Strip. (AN Photo)

Mushtaq Ahmed, a former Pakistani senator, demanded the Pakistani government raise the issue of Israel’s alleged war crimes against the Palestinians in the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“We also demand the government of Pakistan demarche the American ambassador in Pakistan because recently the Americans announced that they are giving $17 billion aid to Israel, which will be used for aircraft, missile technology, tanks and ammunition to kill the innocent Palestinians,” he told Arab News.

Maryam Nazir, media director of the Save Gaza Campaign, said their primary demand was an immediate ceasefire in the besieged territory.

“South Africa is in the International Court of Justice at the Hague for a ceasefire. At least, [Pakistan] should submit a declaration [in the ICJ] of intervention against Israel,” she told Arab News.

Nazir said their efforts would continue and the Pakistani government would have to respond to their demands.

Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and maintains its support for an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, based on pre-1967 borders.

The South Asian country has repeatedly raised the issue of Israel’s war on Gaza at the United Nations through its permanent representative, Ambassador Munir Akram.

Children hold posters, saying "Free Palestine," as Mushtaq Ahmed, a former Pakistani senator, speaks ahead of the Save Gaza campaign walk through Margalla Hills trail in Islamabad on April 21, 2024, to demand a "ceasefire" in the Gaza Strip. (AN Photo)

‘Martyrs of Gaza Conference’

In the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, hundreds of people attended a rally, titled ‘Martyrs of Gaza Conference,’ on Sunday to urge the international community to halt Israeli strikes against the Palestinians. The conference was organized by the Pakistan Markazi Muslim League (PMML) party.

“Two hundred days have passed since the Israeli bombardment began in Gaza, while the entire world has become a silent spectator. I urge them to stop Israel from committing genocide against Palestinians,” said Nadeem Awan, the PMML Karachi general secretary.

“We believe that Pakistan, along with other Muslim states, can play a crucial role in raising the voice for Palestine.”

Isaar Babar, a 27-year-old teacher, said he participated in the rally to let the Palestinians know that Pakistanis stood by them.

“As you know, injustice prevails, and we are here to express solidarity with the people of Palestine, so that our brothers and sisters may know that their Pakistani counterparts stand with them,” he said.

Shaista Noor, another attendee, said Pakistanis couldn’t go to Palestine, but they could support Palestinians by boycotting Israeli products and companies that supported the Jewish state.

“We can boycott Israeli products. We can boycott products that help Israel in one way or another,” she added.


Pakistan finance minister expresses hope of larger IMF program amid Washington meetings

Updated 22 April 2024
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Pakistan finance minister expresses hope of larger IMF program amid Washington meetings

  • Pakistan’s finance minister is in Washington to attend spring meetings by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank
  • The visit comes days before expiry of Pakistan’s current $3 billion program, which helped it avert a default last year

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s finance minister, Muhammad Aurangzeb, on Saturday expressed hope about his country securing a larger bailout program from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pakistani state media reported, amid Aurangzeb’s meetings with officials of global financial institutions in Washington.
Aurangzeb has been in Washington since last week to participate in spring meetings organized by the IMF and World Bank. His tour is an important one for the South Asian country as Pakistan’s ongoing nine-month, $3 billion loan program with the IMF expires this month.
Speaking to journalists and think-tank officials, the finance minister said Pakistan was requesting a “larger and longer” multi-billion-dollar loan program from the IMF and discussions were underway with the Fund’s officials, the state-run APP news agency reported.
“Once the mission is back in Islamabad, we are going to agree on the priorities and the principles,” he was quoted as saying.
“We have our own views and we’ll share it with IMF. But I would rather leave it to the joint meetings in terms of the size and the duration of the program.”
Pakistan signed the $3 billion agreement with the IMF in June 2023, which helped the South Asian country avoid a default. The country is believed to have requested the IMF for another $8 billion bailout program.
The finance minister’s visit to the US also comes at a time when the IMF has published its updated World Economic Outlook, projecting Pakistan’s growth at 2 percent. The Fund has kept the country’s expected growth rate at 3.5 percent for the next fiscal year.
Separately, Aurangzeb met with representatives of rating agencies, S&P Global and Fitch Ratings, and addressed their concerns on the external side, inflation, primary balance and interest rate regime.
“The minister shared an update on the positive indicators of the country on the back of Standby Arrangement (SBA) signed with IMF,” the APP reported. “He highlighted ongoing reforms in the priority areas of taxation, energy and privatization over the short, medium and long-term horizon.”
Aurangzeb referred to his meetings with officials of multilateral institutions and reaffirmed that the World Bank agenda of climate change, digitalization and human development aligned with priorities of the Pakistani government. He also mentioned potential Saudi investments in Pakistan.


Pakistani woman cricketer Nida Dar completes 100 ODI wickets

Updated 21 April 2024
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Pakistani woman cricketer Nida Dar completes 100 ODI wickets

  • Dar becomes second Pakistani woman to achieve the feat in her 108th ODI match against West Indies
  • Prior to her, former Pakistan captain Sana Mir reached the milestone, has 151 wickets from 120 ODIs

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani off-spinner Nida Dar on Sunday achieved her 100th One-Day International (ODI) wicket as her side lost their second game to West Indies at the National Stadium in Karachi.
This was 108th ODI match played by Dar, who became the second Pakistani woman to achieve the feat.
“Congratulations to Nida Dar being the second Pakistani female player to get over a hundred ODI wickets,” Lisa Sthalekar, former Australian woman cricketer and broadcaster, commented after the Pakistan-West Indies match.
“This shows you the long journey she has had. She is a fiercely character that loves that competitiveness.”
Prior to Dar, former Pakistan captain Sana Mir reached the milestone. She has taken 151 wickets from 120 ODIs.
In July 2021, the International Cricket Council announced that Dar had become the country’s first cricketer, male or female, to take more than 100 wickets in Twenty20 internationals.
She had accomplished the feat while playing a match against West Indies, though Pakistan were defeated in that game too.