Where have all the refugees gone?


Dehumanising the afghan refugees is on an all time high

It’s easy to diregard the humanity of the Afghan refugees, when they’re barely referred to in human-related terms anymore.

You may hear the word “burden”, “liability”, “terrorists”, “smugglers”, “miscreants”, “aliens”, and “parasites”. The word “people” rarely comes up, and this is alarming.

It’s been nearly impossible to notice, but thousands of lives are being uprooted daily. The repatriation program, which has existed since 2002, is now in full swing. According to the Chief Commissioner for Afghan Refugees, Dr. Imran Zaib, as many as 3500 ‘foreigners’ were being deported every day before Eid-ul-Azha, and the number is expected to rise to 8000 after the sacred holiday.

More than 90,000 registered refugees were repatriated during July and August. Out of those 90,000 refugees, nearly 70,000 were residing in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) while the rest were settled in Punjab and Sindh.

The establishment’s Eid present to the Pakistani xenophobe is backed by shaky logic. The post-APS paranoia of “too many Afghans” presenting a serious security risk to the stability of this country, can be likened to the post-9/11 Islamophobic fallout. Never before has it made more sense to repeat the pop culture tagline that one’s name is Khan, and one’s not a terrorist.

“Security concern” has always been a racist’s most dependable friend, and there is hardly a reason for these bosom buddies to part now. The social media aims to reinvigorate the racist right with hashtags like #KickOutAfghans and #AfghanRefugeeThreats. Surely, the cornerstone of our counter-terrorist strategy is not undoing years of policies that have facilitated the spread of religious extremism and the importation of Saudi puritanism. Clearly, the priority is not to challenge the jihad fervor that began to blossom in Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s regime, and later vivified under Zia’s supervision as an instrument against the Soviets. The solution, is to preserve the system, whilst shoving the humble Afghan “chali-wala” in the back of a lorry, and send him back Westward.

I hope one pardons me for employing the stereotype of Afghan corn venders to make my point; but the point is to illustrate the harmlessness of an overwhelming majority of refugees, who are contributing cheap labor to the development of this country, receiving bare minimum benefits from the state. Note that the UN renders assistance to Pakistan in offering basic services to the refugees, and this program isn’t sponsored solely by the state. Furthermore, the UN offers $200 to $400 to Afghan refugees for voluntary repatriation.

Consider the circumstances the initially led to the influx of Afghan refugees. In the late 1970s, Pakistan enacted an open-gate policy for these refugees. Afghanistan’s neighboring states, such as Iran, kept refugees detained in camps, but Pakistan allowed them to mingle freely with the general population and settle. The establishment’s decision wasn’t motivated solely by humanism. The immigrants were encouraged to link up with jihadist seminaries and militant outfits, as way of bolstering the armed resistance against the communist invasion. Needless to say, the move was diplomatically lucrative at the time, and earned Pakistan its place as United States most ‘allied ally’.

Decades later, the refugees have outlived their usefulness to the state. Having faithfully served the country’s industries at low wages, these people are set to be deported back to a country where their lives may be at risk. $200 to $400 repatriation grant has little meaning to Afghan families that have lived and established themselves in Pakistan over decades, and now stand at the risk of being uprooted; starting their lives from scratch. Upon return, the Afghan people would be refugees in their own home.

Pakistan’s position as one of the world’s largest refugee hosts, has always been a matter of pride for this nation. Pakistan, Turkey, and Lebanon – and the millions of refugees they collective host – put to shame the rich European nations that squabble over a few thousand refugees each year, and opulent Arab oil states whose lofty ideals of Muslim unity and Islamic representation are hardly demonstrable.

Regrettably, Pakistan has hit a reverse gear on its humanitarian progress; thrusting the onus of terrorism prevention on desperate Afghan families – many of whom are victims of terrorism themselves. We’re poised to declare that our reputation for hospitality is overrated and underserved, and we’re set to send the refugees home through a series of policies that are largely motivated by racism.

That is, if these refugees could still call Afghanistan ‘home’. Egyptian writer, Naguib Mehfouz, may well have been referring to Afghan refugees when he famous said, “Home is not where you are born; home is where all your attempts to escape cease”.


  1. Faraz Talat its my own experience that most of Afghanis are “terrorists”, “smugglers”, “miscreants” etc etc bcz they adopt every mean for survival as pakistanis themself are the most corrupt people in the world so they eat up the Aid they get for Afghanis. So it would be better if Aghanis go back to Afghanistan and do whatever they want like smuggling, drug trafficing etc etc and atleast in Pakistan we can get some peace which is basic for living.

  2. Faraz Talat If you understand my point then in your next article I expect you write in favour of rising the return rate to 20,000 per day atleast.

  3. Can’t agree. Afghan refugees needed to go back long time back. Pakistan needs to be commended for hosting them for three decades long after world stopped contributing for them. Let’s be fair to Pakistan and not ungrateful like the Afghan Govt.

  4. Faraz Talat [F.T] had the courage to write on an imp matter. Sad to see few opposing him who are simply ignorant of the ground realities and history. Its a serious subject. We cannot debate it on this forum. My full support to F.T. Had his contact detail been here, I'd personally call him.

    F.T Sahib, Request send your e mail to me or better a tele contact, for I shall be able to share some very valuable historical facts in support of your articles. Regards. Saeed [[email protected]]

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