On what grounds and by what reasoning is Pakistan deporting Afghan refugees?
There is misery and suffering all around. All over Pakistan, the deportation process targeted mostly at Afghan migrants, has run into snags. In one instance a young Afghan was separated from his family, while his wife and two-month-old baby were taken somewhere else. The young man was about to collapse as no one would tell him where his wife and baby were being kept.
Instances of police torture are common. The ‘holding centres’ are mismanaged, ill-equipped and torturous. Such is the disorderly expulsion of such a large number of refugees that documented refugees are also being caught, harassed and loaded on to trucks to be kept in holding centres. Humiliation is being pored on helpless victims.
In this whole disgraceful spectacle, some facts are conveniently ignored. Was it the responsibility of the displaced people to seek registration in Pakistan? No. It was the duty of Pakistani officials to reach out to all asylum seekers and give them temporary identity cards. Failure to get them registered is a failure of the systems, not of the Afghan refugees. Giving them just 20-day notice is a mockery of justice. Imagine a family having lived in a village or town for three decades and then being ordered to wind up and leave within 20 days.
Under international law, no host country can forcibly expel a family that has left their country of origin because of the fear of persecution, insecurity or acute poverty or starvation.
The Afghan economy has collapsed. The country has been delinked from international banking and financial systems. The US has refused to release $6 billion of Afghan government assets held in American banks. America’s European allies are holding up the release of another $2 billion of Afghan government assets held in their banks. The US clearly wants to ensure the collapse of the system-- a goal unlikely to be achieved.
The Taliban government will not acquiesce into this callous treatment and Islamabad’s hostile attitude. Kabul will not reconcile to this unwarranted, unfair parting.
Rustam Shah Mohmand
But what does Pakistan wish to achieve by taking a decision that will cast its shadows on Pak-Afghan relations for decades to come?
Firstly, it is clear that there was no consultation on taking the decision that would generate so much hostility in the Afghan government against Pakistan. The stakeholders were just not consulted, especially the political parties of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan where the bulk of the refugees are located. There was no debate on the pros and cons of such a significant decision, affecting the lives of 1.5 million people, which the caretaker government was simply not authorized to take. How then, was such a decision taken?
The Afghan refugees are not a burden on Pakistan’s economy; they are all looking after themselves; they have never indulged in any organized unrest in the country nor have they taken part in local politics. And most importantly, they do not have any problems with local communities who have never demanded their expulsion from their lands. There has been complete harmony between the locals and Afghans all these long years. And now, ever so abruptly, all hell has broken loose on helpless Afghans with no evidence whatsoever that any of the refugees were involved in attacks on the border. These attacks are being carried out and claimed by Daesh or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The Taliban government will not acquiesce into this callous treatment and Islamabad’s hostile attitude. Kabul will not reconcile to this unwarranted, unfair parting. In one erroneous stroke, all feelings of sympathy, support and cooperation have been thrown to the wind and a new dynamic has emerged. Now, history is being made by a crazed, ill thought-out decision.
The Afghan government with its broken economy and systems is being called upon to handle the monumental task of providing shelter, food, water and medicines to the throngs of returnees in Afghanistan’s harsh winter conditions. The misery and plight of these hundreds of thousands of impoverished people will live long in memory.
– Rustam Shah Mohmand is a specialist of Afghanistan and Central Asian Affairs. He has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan and also held position of Chief Commissioner Refugees for a decade.