FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Afghan Refugees Feeling the Heat as Geopolitical Tensions Rise

Last week, the Pakistani government callously doubled down on its strategy of using Afghan refugees as pawns in its ongoing political dispute with Afghanistan when it refused to grant a long-term extension of their stay in Pakistan. Islamabad’s move will anger Kabul, which has struggled to absorb and reintegrate the massive influx of Afghans returning from Pakistan in recent years.

On December 31, the Proof of Registration (PoR) cards of 1.4 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan expired after the federal government refused to provide an extension on time.  The PoR cards allow the refugees to live in Pakistan “legally” and avoid harassment by the state. On January 3, the long-suffering refugees learned they would only be given a 30-day extension, rather than the 1-year extension the government had been considering under a trilateral agreement with Afghanistan and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  The decision to limit the extension to 30 days was made during a meeting of the federal Cabinet in Islamabad which was chaired by Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

There are currently 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan, with hundreds of thousands of undocumented refugees also living in the country.  The first wave of refugees began came over from Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan War, with many more arriving during the bloody civil war of the 1990s.  In 2001, the US invaded Afghanistan, beginning the longest war in American history.  The 16-year neo-colonial occupation has devastated the lives of the Afghan people and created a new generation of refugees.

Many of the refugees have lived in Pakistan for decades and have had children in the country. There are indeed children among the 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees. A large number of refugees have established firm roots in the country and have lost all ties to Afghanistan. Kabul has struggled mightily to reintegrate the refugees into Afghan society, repeatedly insisting that Afghanistan does not have the resources to deal with massive numbers of returnees from across the border. Many refugees are also terrified at the prospect of returning to war-torn Afghanistan.  Civilian casualties due to the war reached a 16-year high during the first six months of 2017, according to the UN.

Pakistani politicians often scapegoat the refugees as “terrorists” and charge them with being a burden on the state.  Indeed, while Islamabad has agreed not to forcibly return refugees to Afghanistan, in recent years, it has resorted to a policy of intimidation and harassment of the refugees, so as to bring about their “voluntary” repatriation to the country.  In mid-2016, Pakistan launched what Gerry Simpson, a refugee expert at Human Rights Watch, described at the time as the “world’s largest recent anti-refugee crackdown.”  Afghan refugees have told human rights organizations about the cruel methods used by Pakistani authorities to coerce them into leaving for Afghanistan, including deportation during the winter and police abuses like arbitrary detention, extortion and nocturnal police raids. In fact, during the recent three day period during which 1.4 million refugees lost their documented status, the refugees were reportedly harassed by security personnel, leading them to confine themselves in their homes until the 30-day extension was granted.

In seeking to build domestic support for the forced repatriation of refugees to Afghanistan, Pakistani officials have described the refugee camps where the Afghans live as “safe havens” for terrorists. There is no doubt, however, that Islamabad hopes to use the refugee crisis to punish Afghanistan for shifting ever closer towards it arch-rival, New Delhi.

The deepening alliance between Afghanistan and India is viewed by Pakistan’s ruling elites as a vital security threat due to their fear of “strategic encirclement” by India, but Washington has turned a blind eye to Islamabad’s concerns and has encouraged the two countries to further enhance bilateral relations.  Moreover, US President Donald Trump has recently adopted a hardline stance towards Islamabad, with Washington suspending military aid to Pakistan on January 4.  The increasingly belligerent approach of the US towards Pakistan, where anti-US sentiment remains high, has forced the country’s ruling establishment to adopt a defiant stance towards Washington. Pakistan’s working-class majority remains steadfastly opposed to America’s imperialist war in Afghanistan, and to their government’s role in supporting and facilitating the ongoing occupation. With few options available to hit back at the US and Afghanistan, there is a danger that the Pakistani government may decide to throw the Afghan refugees to the wolves.

Ali Mohsin is an independent writer.  He can be reached at alimohsin1917@gmail.com

 

More articles by:

Ali Mohsin is an independent writer.  He can be reached at alimohsin1917@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
January 29, 2020
Jefferson Morley
Weakest Link: Impeachment and National Security
Peter Lackowski
Venezuela, January 2020: Hardship and Resistance
Kenneth Surin
BoJo Johnson’s Brexit Fantasies
Ron Jacobs
The Swamp That Trump Built
Scott Corey
A Different Impeachment
Peter Cohen
How to Survive this Election
Manuel García, Jr.
Mutually Assured Madness: Immunity to the 25th Amendment
John Kendall Hawkins
Soviet Hippies: The Grass is Greener on the Other Side
Chandra Muzaffar
The International Court of Justice and the Rohingyas
John Grant
Iran is Not Responsible for US Deaths in Iraq
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The World Demands Us Out of the Middle East
Shawn Fremstad
Marital-Status Discrimination Reduces Fertility in China
Lawrence Wittner
Could the Climate Crisis be “The Good News of Damnation”?
Tom Engelhardt
The Fate of the Earth (See Page Five)
Myles Hoenig
Why the Green Party isn’t the Problem
January 28, 2020
Patrick Cockburn
China’s Coronavirus Outbreak Reminds Me of the Irish Polio Epidemic I Survived
P. Sainath
Making Rebellion Attractive: Why the Establishment Still Hates John Reed
Geoff Dutton
Where Was Rudy Giuliani When Democrats Needed Him?
Sam Pizzigati
The Evolution of “Davos Man” into . . . Trump Fan!
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Truth a Major Casualty of Impeachment Hearings
Michael Welton
Autobiographical Roots of Habermas’ Thought
Greta Anderson
Remove the Livestock, Not the Wolves
Nick Pemberton
Sorry Chomsky and Friends, The Green Party isn’t the Problem
Jack Rasmus
Trump’s Feeble Phase 1 China-US Trade Deal
Mike Garrity – Jason Christensen
Natural Gas Pipeline Corridor Threatens Imperiled Species and Inventoried Roadless Areas
Daniel Falcone
Make America Radical Again: A Conversation with Harvey J. Kaye
Binoy Kampmark
Split Hearings: the Assange Extradition Case Drags On
Eric Toussaint
Greece: a Chronology From January 25, 2015 to 2019
Nino Pagliccia
An Open Letter to Justin Trudeau on Venezuela
Robert Hunziker
Reflections of a Scientific Humanist
Jeffrey St. Clair
Who Cares If It Leaks? An Afternoon at Hollyhock House
January 27, 2020
Peter Harrison
Adani and the Purpose of Education
Dean Baker
Can Manufacturing Workers Take Many More of Trump’s Trade “Victories”?
Robert Fisk
Trump in Davos: US isolationism is Reaching Its Final Narcissistic Chapter
Ariel Dorfman
The Challenge for Chile and the World
Victor Grossman
The Misuses of Antisemitism in the UK and the USA
Thomas Knapp
Bernie Sanders, Joe Rogan, Human Rights Campaign, and Truth in Advertising
Fred Gardner
NewsGuard Can Save You From Putin!
Lawrence Wittner
A Historian Reflects on the Return of Fascism
Rose Miriam Elizalde
Cuba: a Matter of Principle
Bob Topper
The Better Moral Creed
George Wuerthner
Giving Cover to the Abuses of Big Ag
Christopher Packham
This is Really Happening
Negin Owliaei
Americans Need to Hear More From Iranians, Here’s Where to Start
Ted Rall
Corporate Crap That Doesn’t Kill Bernie
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail