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Afghan refugees in Pakistan: Complexities beneath the surface

Sameera Casmod |
10 November 2023 | 09:44 CAT
2-min read

Picture: Human Rights Watch

In an interview with Pakistani journalist and analyst Arshad Yusufzai on Radio Islam International, the discussion centred on the complex situation between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The focus was on the Pakistani caretaker government’s decision to repatriate Afghan refugees and the ensuing challenges.

According to the Pakistani government, the primary reason for this decision is security concerns. Yusufzai clarified that the repatriation plan does not extend to the total of 1,7 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. It only applies to those who entered post-August 2021 illegally, crossing porous border areas without proper documentation or registration. The number of refugees reportedly in violation of Pakistani immigration regulations is approximately 750 000, Yusufzai said.

The lack of clarity in the repatriation order led to many of the 1,7 million Afghans with proper refugee status moving to border areas, particularly Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan.

Thousands of refugees are stranded at border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan, facing harsh weather conditions, because government officials there do not know what to do with people who do not have documentation, Yusufzai said.

Political tensions between the post-Imran Khan caretaker government in Pakistan and the Taliban government in Kabul were discussed. “Taliban are not entirely happy with the caretaker government or even before them the government of PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) which was led by Shahbaz Sharif. The Taliban believed that they were not sincere, they were not [as] interested in anything positive [between] Pakistan [and] Afghanistan as Imran Khan was,” Yusufzai said. Trust issues and a perceived lack of sincerity on both sides contribute to the strained relationship, creating challenges in addressing shared concerns.

Reports suggesting a hefty human cost emerged, with claims that refugees in dire medical conditions couldn’t enter Pakistan due to border closures. Yusufzai, however, countered these reports, stating that Pakistan has been relatively accommodating in issuing visas for medical treatment. He acknowledged security concerns but emphasised that the situation may not be as dire as portrayed.

Concerns were raised about difficulties faced by Afghan nationals in obtaining visas for visiting and business purposes. Complaints about bribery, delays, and denial of visas have been voiced by Afghans, pointing to challenges in the visa application process in this regard.

The interview touched on the upcoming elections in February, raising questions about rumours circulating about former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s deal with the military establishment in Pakistan to be re-instated as prime minister.

“If he [Imran Khan] was allowed to participate in elections, or if his political party, minus Imran Khan was allowed to participate in elections, the stronger indications are that people would vote for him across the country,” Yusufzai responded.

Yusufzai also discussed the protests against Imran Khan’s imprisonment which he perceives as misdirected guidance given to Imran Khan. Indeed, some of those people have confessed that the political uprisings were miscalculated and have subsequently joined opposition parties. Yusufzai suggested that the repercussions of this uprising have deterred individuals associated with Imran Khan from pursuing similar actions in the future.

Listen to the full interview with Moulana Sulaimaan Ravat on Sabaahul Muslim.


Prime Spot!!!


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