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Afghan refugees in Pakistan — a costly decision

In the year 1979, Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan which resulted in a massive amount of Afghan refugees crossing the border into Pakistan; the same people who voted negatively at the time of creation of Pakistan. This influx initiated via Torkham border, and so a million Afghan refugees entered the country. Till this day the country is showing hospitality towards those Afghan refugees, nevertheless the number swelled massively in the past forty years.

In the early years, Pakistan was receiving a handsome support globally, including food assistance from World Food Program to feed those empty stomachs. Nevertheless, that assistance was withdrawn in 1995. Gradually, that made the Afghan refugees move from the camps to the urban areas of Pakistan, which in fact was in favor of those Afghan refugees, but it strained local governments’ limited resources.

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If we contemplate today, we can analyze how badly the decision turned out for Pakistan, first to let those Afghan refugees cross the border and then letting them move to the country’s urban areas. Later, donors like UNHCR, USA, EU, KSA and other Islamic countries that first supported Pakistan in feeding those Afghan refugees also stepped back, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as there seemed to be a drastic ideological change among the communities worldwide regarding the region.

Nevertheless, UNHCR somehow continued its support which assisted Pakistan in improving the Afghan refugees’ lives, but due to the recent global crises, mainly Syria, the focus of international community had diverted. This forced Pakistan to single-handedly carry this never-ending burden. Over the last four decades the government of Pakistan and its populace has been hosting millions of Afghan refugees. Currently there are 1.4 million registered refugees and God knows how many are wandering across the country, undocumented.

The government of Pakistan has been very flexible in handling the Afghan refugees’ issues and has allowed them to live with freedom and granted the liberty of moving, the luxury of education, food and safety. Pakistan even went so far as to provide them with POR cards using which they could open bank accounts. Moreover, several different programs have been initiated under private-public partnership to provide the Afghan refugees with skills so that they could earn a livelihood.

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Pakistan has been very generous allowing the Afghan refugees to pursue higher education and encouraged them to join national sports teams and domestic cricket tournaments. But the sole purpose of hosting the Afghan refugees was to provide them with “asylum” until the situation got better in Afghanistan, which was a sign of humanity. But unfortunately, these Afghan refugees have rooted themselves, wishing to live in Pakistan forever, as they seem reluctant to go back to their country.

It has been more than four decades that Pakistan is under a liability which never belonged to it. Today, Pakistan has more Afghan refugees spread across the country, which is one of the biggest mistakes the country ever made. While the country has been a generous all these years, the continued presence of Afghan refugees is a burden on our precious resources.

Moreover, with the advancement of Taliban in Afghanistan, the government of Pakistan in 2021, for the sake of humanity, had taken the costly and foolish decision of allowing a huge number of refugees to re-enter Pakistan. Nevertheless, the arrangement was to last for a few months, but these few months are turning into an year, which is a disastrous sign, since the whole country is infiltrated with Afghans, our every business of life is being cruelly disturbed.

The rental value of homes has climbed drastically, the cost of commodities of everyday use has risen, along with crime, drugs and a lot more. Moreover, it is a threat to our culture, our language and our tradition. This is basically against the national interest. As we have been their host for a long time, instead of going back, herds of more refugees are coming.

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