Pakistan has begun to expel all undocumented foreigners which include 1.7 million Afghans, one of the biggest groups of immigrants living there. The Government has said that it can no longer afford to provide shelter to so many who are also law and order threats. However, observers also read worsening relations with Talibans as one cause which they think will make it even more negative as Afghanistan has no resources to handle them either.
Government of Pakistan had publicly announced that undocumented foreigners had to leave by Nov. 1 and around 200,000 Afghan nationals had left over the past two months. Heartbreaking scenes of farewell including Afghan children hugging their Pakistani school friends one last time have been in the media. Trucks piled high with baggage of departing Afghans standing on the border is a common sight.
The scene in Taliban-led Afghanistan is serious as it can’t accommodate and feed such a large population. Apparently 15 million Afghans are already in a food insecure state which will now increase. Meanwhile, the west has been using aid cuts and international relief groups as a tool against the Taliban government.
Afghan refugees in Pakistan are facing a long era of such suffering which began after the Soviet invasion and subsequent wars. Since the latest take over in 2021, over 600,000 refugees have taken shelter in Pakistan.
While Pakistan has housed many despite their own resource difficulties, the Afghans have faced discrimination at work and socially and the Pakistanis feel threatened by the prospect of job loss. Some have held them responsible for the rise of drugs smuggling and terrorism. It’s no different from refugees elsewhere including Bangladesh. The Rohingyas in Bangladesh is a near at hand comparison.
While many Afghans are choosing destinations to migrate other than Pakistan, reaching there isn’t easy. However, after the fall of the US backed government in Kabul, a deluge of people came to Pakistan and it has never been happy about them.
Pakistan has said that it’s not targeting Afghans but all undocumented refugees including migrants and refugees from Iran, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. However, Bangladesh has not been mentioned yet though one must wait to see what happens next. The number of such undocumented refugees is not known but their existence is public knowledge. Islamabad has not yet said anything about them yet.
Global Scapegoats ?
Some believe that Afghans are being used as scapegoats as Pakistan battles a major economic crisis and resurgence of terrorist activities including by the Afghanistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Pakistan’s military establishment has endorsed the move, so its official policy.
There is an element of crocodile tear shedding in the international space for the Afghans as the US backed and promoted a hugely corrupt and incompetent regime to run the country in its name which basically prepared the background for the Taliban’s return. Pakistan too was part of it and it’s these multiple international politics that are contributing now to the crisis of deportation that Afghans are facing in Pakistan now.