Documented Afghan migrants in Karachi say suffering fallout of Pakistan’s deportation drive

A police personnel tests biometric of an Afghan refugee during a search operation to identify alleged illegal immigrants, on the outskirts of Karachi on November 17, 2023. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 09 December 2023
Follow

Documented Afghan migrants in Karachi say suffering fallout of Pakistan’s deportation drive

  • Government says registered refugees can stay but many complain of losing jobs and homes, police intimidation
  • Top officials have openly said Afghans were behind terror attacks in Pakistan and a drain on the economy

KARACHI: Rubina Hidayatullah has seen it all since she moved to Pakistan from neighboring Afghanistan with her three-year-old son to seek medical treatment for her ailing husband in 2005.

She has lived the difficult life of a refugee in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi. Her husband passed away just a few years after she moved to Pakistan. She raised her three children, two of them born in Pakistan, alone. And she worked long hours as a housemaid to make ends meet.

But nothing could have prepared her for the challenge that came two months ago. 

Just as her two sons both got jobs and she hoped she would get a chance at some respite in life, the Pakistan government on Oct. 3 announced a deportation drive against “illegal immigrants,” calling on them to leave voluntarily by Nov. 1 or face forcible expulsion. Although the government says the policy is targeted at all undocumented foreigners, it has disproportionately hit Afghans, who form the largest number of migrants to Pakistan. Since the announcement of the expulsion drive, over 370,000 have returned to their country or been deported.

Many of those who have left have told Arab News they had documents but were fleeing out of fear of arrest and persecution. Many Afghans who have stayed behind have gone underground. Reports of police harassment and arrests have been widespread, while many Afghans say they have been sacked from their jobs or asked by landlords to leave their homes.

“I had one boy working in a restaurant, and the other, at the age of nine, became an apprentice at a workshop,” Hidayatullah, 50, a registered refugee, told Arab News, at her tiny apartment in Karachi. “Since the Afghan [deportation] issue began, both of them have been laid off from their jobs.”

Many Afghans have also lost their homes.

Maulana Ikramullah Khan, another registered refugee, said he had lived in the city’s Ancholi neighborhood for nearly a decade before losing his home and moving to the Sohrab Goth slum.

“The landlord came and asked for my identity card,” Khan said. “When I showed him my [refugee] card, he said, ‘You are an Afghan, and we will not rent the house to Afghans.’ So, he told me that the month was almost ending, and I should vacate the house.”

“It is very distressing for a person to live in one place for 31 years, where you get married, have children, and then, after 31 years, you face a situation where you’re treated in a manner where [you’re told], ‘Leave from here, we will not give you a house, or evacuate our house’.”

The already precarious state of education for refugee children has also been hit.

“Our school has been impacted, we had 300 students enrolled, and now the number has dwindled to less than a hundred,” Syed Mustafa, principal of the Jamal Uddin Afghani School in Karachi, said. “Most landlords are not renting to Afghans now.”

The difficulties come against the background of various government officials, including the prime minister and the army chief, openly saying Afghans were behind terror attacks in Pakistan and a drain on the economy. The interior minister has accused Afghan nationals of being involved in organized crime and responsible for 14 out of 24 suicide attacks in Pakistan this year. Last month Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said the move to expel hundreds of thousands of undocumented Afghans was a response to the unwillingness of the Taliban-led administration in Kabul to act against militants using Afghanistan to carry out attacks in Pakistan.

Hajji Abdullah, the chairman of the refugee council in Karachi, confirmed Afghan nationals were losing jobs and facing midnight raids due to the government’s new policy. 

“Afghan refugees who were legal and used to work in companies, those companies have now sacked them, saying that the government has urged [Pakistanis] not to employ Afghans,” he told Arab News. 

“Unemployed, they are now sitting at home hungry … They should be allowed to resume their work and earn for their children.”

The Sindh home ministry could not be reached for comment despite multiple attempts. A spokesperson for Karachi Police, Abrar Hussain Baloch, said the state was only fulfilling its responsibility to “act against Illegal immigrants.”

He denied “any sort of action which may cause harm or affect the lives of legal refugees.”

In the meantime, refugees like Hidayatullah continue to live in uncertainty and fear. 

“I have neither gone to Afghanistan, nor can I go there,” she said when asked if she would be leaving for Afghanistan because of the difficulties created by the expulsion drive.

“I don’t have anyone whom I would visit … I have no brothers in Afghanistan and no father.”


Opposition parties in Sindh announce ‘black day’ following clashes during provincial lawmakers’ oath ceremony

Updated 7 sec ago
Follow

Opposition parties in Sindh announce ‘black day’ following clashes during provincial lawmakers’ oath ceremony

  • Political workers of different parties staged hours-long blockade of a central thoroughfare despite tear gas shelling
  • Jamaat-e-Islami, Grand Democratic Alliance and Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam raised rigging allegations after Feb. 8 polls

KARACHI: Several Pakistani parties on Saturday announced they would observe February 27 as “black day” in response to Sindh police firing tear gas at political workers protesting suspected rigging in the general elections earlier this month, as the newly elected lawmakers joined the inaugural session of the provincial legislature.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) bagged the highest 84 seats in the southern Sindh province, followed by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) which secured 28 seats, while 14 seats went to independents. The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) religious party and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) won two seats each.
Supporters of the JI, GDA, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), and other nationalist parties gathered near the provincial assembly in Karachi’s South zone to protest the alleged manipulation of the Feb. 8 election, which was marred by a mobile network outage and delays in the release of constituency results.
Hundreds of police personnel were deployed to prevent opposition supporters from advancing toward the Sindh Assembly building. The GDA and JUI-F were en route to the Karachi Press Club when clashes broke out between their workers and the police, resulting in stone-pelting and tear gas shelling.
“I strongly condemn the police shelling over the JUI-F workers,” Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman, the JI chief, said at a joint protest with the GDA. “We will observe February 27 as black day against election rigging and police torture on political workers.”
Rashid Soomro, a JUI-F leader, also confirmed development.
“Our peaceful workers were beaten and subjected to shelling as we attempted to reach the press club,” he said.
Political workers belonging to the protesting parties also blocked a main thoroughfare, Shahrah-e-Faisal, for several hours during the day.
Earlier, the outgoing speaker of the Sindh Assembly, Agha Siraj Durrani, administered oath to the newly elected lawmakers amid heavy security around the building.
“I do solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan, that as a member of the provincial assembly of Sindh, I will perform my functions honestly, to the best of my ability, faithfully, in accordance with the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the law and the rules of the assembly, and always in the interest of sovereignty, integrity and solidarity, well-being and prosperity of Pakistan,” Durrani said as he read out the oath to the lawmakers.
“May Allah Almighty help me and guide me.”
In view of the protest calls, the Sindh caretaker government on Friday imposed a ban under Section 144 on public assembly, gatherings, protests, processions, and demonstrations in Karachi’s South zone, where the provincial legislature is located, for a period of 30 days, according to the provincial home department.
Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) empowers the administration to issue orders in public interest and place a ban on any activity for a specific period of time.
The oath-taking ceremony came a day after the PPP nominated Murad Ali Shah, former Sindh chief minister, for the top provincial office once again, Syed Owais Shah for the role of speaker, and Anthony Naveed for the post of deputy speaker of the Sindh provincial assembly.
“We will not only compete with the governments of other provinces but also with the Center in performance,” Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, a former foreign minister and the PPP chairman, said at a meeting of newly elected party lawmakers in Karachi.
The PPP chairman announced that his party would forge a working relationship with all opposition parties in Sindh and address their legitimate grievances, according to a PPP statement. He urged the newly elected lawmakers to play their role in resolving the people’s problems in their respective constituencies.
“Be my eyes and ears,” Bhutto-Zardari was quoted as saying. “You play the role of a bridge between the people of your constituency and me; you are my ambassador to the people.”


Ex-PM Khan’s party presents ‘consolidated rigging evidence’ through website, questions election integrity

Updated 18 min 7 sec ago
Follow

Ex-PM Khan’s party presents ‘consolidated rigging evidence’ through website, questions election integrity

  • PTI claims it won 179 national seats on the basis of evidence available on the online portal, though ECP only notified 92
  • It mentions huge discrepancies between Forms 45 and 47 results, saying 87 of its national seats continue to remain disputed

ISLAMABAD: Former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has created an online portal to consolidate “rigging evidence” from the February 8 polls by compiling election documents from polling stations across the country to highlight discrepancies between the number of votes polled and the final results announced.
Pakistan’s general elections this month were marred by a nationwide outage of cellphone networks, delays in vote counting and result announcements.
The situation led to widespread perceptions of election manipulation, prompting Khan’s PTI and other parties to protest against the alleged rigging, which they claim favored their opponents.
However, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has denied these allegations.
“It swiftly became public knowledge that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was making significant gains in the election,” Khan’s party wrote on the portal, referring to the unofficial results from various polling stations which started pouring in shortly after the voting concluded.
“However, concerns arose when the security apparatus, entrusted with safeguarding the electoral process, began exerting undue influence over the ROs [returning officers] and their premises,” it added. “Candidates were abruptly removed from RO offices, signaling the beginning of coercive measures to dictate election outcomes.”
The PTI said this was done before the preparation of the Form 47 document that details the result of the whole constituency, naming all the candidates while specifying their parties and mentioning the total number of votes cast in their favor.
The Form 47 is compiled with the help of another document, Form 45, which is prepared by presiding officers of polling stations in the same format.
The final result of a constituency is compiled by using the information in Forms 45 arriving from hundreds of polling stations.
The PTI said the “interference” by the security apparatus forced many ROs to issue Form 47 documents “that bore no resemblance to the original Form 45 submissions from the field.”
“In response to these troubling developments, we have compiled the submitted forms from various candidates for public and media scrutiny,” it added. “A comparative analysis reveals significant disparities between the vote counts recorded on ‘Form 45’ and the figures eventually endorsed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Discrepancies range from a few thousand to over seventy thousand votes in many instances, underscoring the urgent need for transparency and accountability in the electoral process.”
The party said there were a few forms still missing which it could not get hold of.
Additionally, it specified that it had mentioned only those constituencies where 90 percent or more of these forms were available.
The PTI claimed it had won 179 national seats on the basis of the evidence the portal contained.
However, the ECP only notified the triumph of its candidates from 92 constituencies. The party also noted that 87 of its seats remained disputed.


Karachi Kings, Lahore Qalandars reignite cricket rivalry in PSL clash tonight

Updated 24 February 2024
Follow

Karachi Kings, Lahore Qalandars reignite cricket rivalry in PSL clash tonight

  • Both sides have had a poor outing so far this season and need to step up their game
  • The match, known as El Classico of Pakistan Super League, will begin 7pm Pakistan time

ISLAMABAD: Known as the “El Classico of Pakistan Super League” owing to the intense rivalry between the two cities, Lahore Qalandars will face off Karachi Kings in their Pakistan Super League (PSL) 9th edition match at the Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Saturday.

Both sides have had a poor outing so far this season and need to step up their game, though Karachi will be coming in on the back of their victory against Peshawar on Wednesday.

The match will begin at 7pm Pakistan time.

“Ready for our 3rd showdown as #KingsSquad gears up to clash against Lahore Qalandars,” Karachi Kings wrote on X.

 

 

Karachi boast a strong bowling line-up, with Mir Hamza and Hassan Ali taking three wickets each.

Lahore, on the other hand, have had a three-match losing streak and are yet to get a victory in the current season.

Their bowling unit has also not been able to perform in crucial moments for the side, with Shaheen Afridi and Fakhar Zaman managing to two wickets each so far.


US spaceship lying sideways after dramatic Moon touchdown

Updated 24 February 2024
Follow

US spaceship lying sideways after dramatic Moon touchdown

  • The Odysseus spacecraft landed near the lunar south pole Thursday at 6:23 p.m. Eastern Time
  • The firm behind landing initially posted on social media that its hexagonal spaceship was upright

WASHINGTON: The first American spaceship to the Moon since the Apollo era is probably lying sideways following its dramatic landing, the company that built it said Friday, even as ground controllers work to download data and surface photos from the uncrewed robot.

The Odysseus spacecraft landed near the lunar south pole Thursday at 6:23 p.m. Eastern Time (2323 GMT), after a nail-biting final descent when ground teams had to switch to a backup guidance system and took several minutes to establish radio contact after the lander came to rest.

Intuitive Machines, the company behind this first-ever lunar landing by a private company, initially posted on social media that its hexagonal spaceship was upright, but CEO Steve Altemus told reporters on Friday that statement was based on misinterpreted data.

Instead, it appears that it caught a foot on the surface and tipped over, coming to rest horizontally with its top perched on a small rock — taking some shine off an accomplishment widely hailed as a historic achievement.

A NASA probe called the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter should be able to photograph Odysseus over the weekend, helping pinpoint its exact location.

Altemus said that while solar arrays were on the top-facing side, the team’s ability to download data from the science experiments on board was being hampered because of antennas facing downward that “are unusable for transmission back to Earth — and so that really is a limiter in our ability to communicate and get the right data down so we get everything we need for the mission.”

Because of complications associated with the landing, a decision was taken not to shoot out an external camera to capture the descent as it happened, according to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which built the “EagleCam” device.

But the team will still attempt to deploy it from the ground to try to obtain an outside image of Odysseus.

Odysseus is still considered the first success for a new fleet of NASA-funded lunar landers designed to carry out science experiments that will pave the way for the return of American astronauts to the Moon later this decade, under the Artemis program.

A moonshot by another American company last month ended in failure, raising the stakes to demonstrate that private industry has what it takes to repeat a feat last achieved by US space agency NASA during its manned Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Underlining the technical challenges, Intuitive Machines’ own navigation technology failed and ground engineers were forced to jury-rig a solution, hastily writing a software patch to switch to an experimental NASA laser guidance system that was intended to run only as a technology demonstration.

Altemus later revealed Odysseus’ own laser system failed to turn on because someone had forgotten to flip a safety switch before takeoff, which he described as “an oversight on our part.”

Confirmation of landing was supposed to come seconds after the milestone, but instead around 15 minutes passed before a faint signal was detected, enough to declare the spaceship was in one piece and had met its goal.

NASA paid Intuitive Machines $118 million to ship six experiments under an initiative which delegates cargo services to the private sector in a bid to achieve savings and stimulate a wider lunar economy.

Odysseus also carries cargo for private customers, including a reflective heat wrapping developed by Columbia Sportswear and used to protect the spaceship’s cryogenic propulsion tank.

The United States, along with international partners, want to develop long-term habitats on the south pole, harvesting ice there for drinking water — and for rocket fuel for eventual onward voyages to Mars.

The first crewed landing under NASA’s Artemis program is set to take place no sooner than 2026. China meanwhile plans to put its first crew on the Moon in 2030, opening a new era of space competition.

The mission was the fourth attempt at soft lunar touchdown by the private sector. Intuitive Machines joins the national space agencies of the Soviet Union, United States, China, India and Japan in an exclusive club of landing on the Moon.


X disrupted in Pakistan for seventh day as Internet monitor reports VPN restrictions

Updated 24 February 2024
Follow

X disrupted in Pakistan for seventh day as Internet monitor reports VPN restrictions

  • The platform was downed on the night of Feb. 17 amid protests by political parties over alleged vote-rigging
  • Pakistan’s national election this month was marred by a mobile network outage, delays in release of polls results

ISLAMABAD: Social media platform X was disrupted across Pakistan for a seventh consecutive day on Saturday after a general election marred by allegations of rigging, with an Internet monitor reporting restrictions on virtual private network (VPN) services.

The platform was downed on the night of Feb. 17 amid protests by political parties over alleged rigging of Feb. 8 national election in the South Asian country.

The disruption came hours after a senior bureaucrat said he helped rig the polls and accused the country’s chief justice and top election official of rigging polls.

Digital rights activists have attributed the disruption of X to its widespread use by public and political parties to organize demonstrations.

“Live metrics show #Pakistan’s X/Twitter restriction is ongoing into a seventh day,” NetBlocks, a London-based Internet monitor, said late Friday.

“With VPN services also widely restricted, users face increasing difficultly getting online amid heightened concerns over vote rigging after elections conducted under a telecoms shutdown.”

The Feb. 8 election was marred by a nationwide outage of mobile phone networks, with the caretaker government citing security reasons behind the suspension.

The blackout was followed by delays in the release of constituency results, giving rise to allegations of vote-rigging.

Several political parties, including jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), have since been protesting alleged manipulation of election results in the country.