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"If your bed belongs to another person, they have...," Afghan Refugee in Pakistan

“If your bed belongs to another person (Pakistan), they have the power to take it away from you in the middle of the night,”

Despite various eviction extensions given to the illegal Afghan residents in Pakistan, to date 1.3 million illegally continue to populate the country. Tensions soured between the Afghan refugees and Pakistan, particularly after the APS attack in December 2014. Security concerns rose, and hostility towards Afghan refugee groups increased, as reported by the Amnesty report of 2016. In October 2023, the interior minister, Sarfaraz Bugti, announced a crackdown against illegal Afghans, not mentioning the Balochistan attacks directly. However, public forums and media channels have been vocal about the underlying security concerns and tensions between the Taliban and the Pakistan government over the recent months, driving this decision.


Taliban called this eviction, “unfair” and “unjust.” The UN says they are “extremely alarmed,” by this decision. They believe this forcible return will lead to a “humanitarian catastrophe,” especially for women and girls. But, how do the returning refugees feel? For some, they are being sent to a “land unknown” since their great grandfathers settled in these refugee camps more than 3 to 4 decades ago, fleeing from the invading Soviets.


If more than 70% of Afghan refugees have been born and bred in Pakistan, why is citizenship not the solution? Under international law, refugees can take shelter in any foreign country they want. However, Pakistan is not under any obligation by the UN conventions to offer citizenship to Afghan refugees, unlike the European countries. No compulsion, but has Pakistan exhausted the moral commitment towards these refugees? Does moral commitment have a limit or extent? This also brings out the question of whether this forcible return is legal or not.

Not everyone is willing to return.


Some have pointed fingers at Pakistan for halting the allocation of refugee statuses to the incoming Afghanis after the Taliban regained control in August 2021. Was the Pakistani government satisfied with the Taliban’s claim that “this time it will be different.”


One Afghan refugee told BBC, "Before we left Afghanistan, our lives were in 50% danger. Now they are in 100% danger.” This group of Afghan refugees fled after the Taliban regained control in 2021, because of their former ties with the US and British governments - “the enemies” of the Taliban. These people are not voluntarily returning, but they are being forced. Their lives are in danger. How is this fair?


In a 7-year-old interview with Al-Jazeera, a former refugee in Pakistan who returned to Afghanistan in 2004, blamed the “government policies that never accepted us as the humans of Pakistan.” He further stated how the term “muhajir” was used to refer to the refugees in schools and madrassas, with a derogatory underlining. Similarly, if the Pakistani students in these heterogeneous camp schools were taught A for “apple”, we (the Afghans) were taught A for “Allah.”


All these years later, discrimination, hostility, and torture across borders remains. How is this morally acceptable? Is Pakistan hoping for a better future for itself or the refugees by forcing them to leave? What about those who are waiting to be relocated to the UK and the US through the relocation schemes they applied for years and years ago? Will they be arrested after returning to their own so-called “homeland?” Who is to be held accountable and who will promise their safety?


Lastly, the complex question we are left with is how much of this decision by the Pakistani government lies in security concerns, political reasons, or immorality.



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It is disheartening to witness the plight of Afghan refugees facing uncertainty and danger after being forced to leave their homes due to the resurgence of the Taliban. The moral acceptability of the situation is a central concern here, the forced return of Afghan refugees, especially those with ties to the UK and US governments raises ethical concerns about human rights. Moreover, the motivations behind the Pakistani government's decision to halt the allocation of refugee statuses p[rompt critical questions. Is this a measure driven by security concerns, or political considerations or does it reflect a moral dilemma?

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Risposta a

Thank you for your comment! I slightly disagree because I think not only those waiting to be picked up by the next plane from UK or the US are the ones who are alleged victims under the rights law but everyone is. Even the one who is working as a farmer on a Punjabi's land, even the bus driver who picks up children and even the 60-year old women who is working in the house of the Pakistani. Everyone who was born here and denied identity, are first and foremost on the list I believe.

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Thank you for sharing, the way the state has handled the situation regarding the Afghan refugees is deplorable. 70% of them have been born here and have spent their entire lives here, sending them "back" to a country they've never stepped foot in is unacceptable. When Pakistan bears the responsibility for contributing to the destabilization of Afghanistan, the moral responsibility for the humane treatment of the refugees from the conflict also lies with the state. Denying them citizenship, or the right to stay, and instead deporting them to a conflict zone as a geopolitical move is not something we should allow our government to get away with.

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Thank you for your comment! I absolutely agree with you. However, the media has something else to say and those in "power" right now have a different story. For example, one of my relative is in charge right now of the situation and he said that the minister's house in Peshawar is housing pregnant Afghan women who were not able to travel back and will only do so after their health and the child's will be accounted for. It is shocking right?

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Whenever any article or post regarding the Afghan refugees comes across me, I can only help but reflect on the irony that is present here. Pakistanis top the list when it comes to immigrations, hoping for better and brighter futures. The expectation is always that foreign countries open their doors to us and any discrimination is rightfully frowned upon. However, when it comes to the case of Afghan refugees, people who left their war torn country and settled here. Who made Pakistan their own home and have worked here for years and years, contributing to the economy are shamelessly sent back. The same one charge of illegal migrants being weaponised to justify this eviction. But has the Pakistani government taken…

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts Sarwat! Interestingly, no Pakistan has not only been sending back the undocumented Afghans. The Pashtuns and documented Afghans have also found themselves under the target. Honestly, the stats and the situation at the borders clearly shows how thought through this decision is. For instance, Pakistan has carried out widespread abuses against the refugees as soon as the 1st November deadline ended. Read here. Similarly, Afghan refugees who are leaving say they have nothing with them. No money, no arrangements, and no plan. Read more here.

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I appreciate the insightful contribution Mahnoor! Truly, the relocation program is highly problematic, addressing no socio-economic issue in reality and instead creating many new ones. The citizens born in Pakistan at least have all their rights to claim citizenship of Pakistan. Millions of Pakistani expats are awaiting their citizenship rights in foreign nations or have already gained them over the last many decades.


If these Afghani refugees who started coming in around 30 years back are not rightful citizens of Pakistan then no Pakistani outside the country remains with rights of citizenship beyond the country's borders. Of course I do not mean to demean anyone here. What I am implying here is that all these 'refugees' are either born here…


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Thank you for commenting Hammad! I totally agree with you. This is part of the Pakistani Constitution that anyone born within the country has the right to the citizenship. But surprisingly, not only did Pakistan not give them citizenship but also stopped even considering this clause after the Taliban took over in 2021. What was the agenda? What was this hidden influence of power and where was it coming from? There has been a lot of happening in this regard ever since I wrote the blog. For instance, this decision of the government made many other groups in the country feel unsafe and vulnerable, like the Pashtuns. There have been various accounts circulating on social media of Pashtuns and Afghans (with citizenship)…

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Thank you for sharing this. very insightful blog.

It is heartbreaking to see what Pakistan is doing with Afghan refugees. As you said, 70% of Afghans have been bred and born in Pakistan, and still Pakistan is not giving them citizenship. It is really heartbreaking too see that these Afghan people have no homes; they aren’t given citizenship. About the question you asked, is Pakistan hoping for a better future for itself or the refugees by forcing them to leave? Pakistan might think it is hoping for a better future for itself when actually nothing about Pakistan is getting better if they evict these Afghan people; things are still going to remain the same. Also, what about these Afghan people?…

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Thank you for your comment Naimol! It's indeed a complex situation. While addressing the needs of long-term Afghan residents in Pakistan is crucial, finding sustainable solutions, such as providing pathways to citizenship or improved living conditions, would be more humane. Balancing national interests with humanitarian considerations is key for fostering a sense of belonging and stability for Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Pakistan surely missed this balance.

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