Hosting Afghan Refugees in Pakistan

Pakistan and Afghanistan are both neighboring countries that share features of social, political, and strategic relations. Both countries have been sharing a bundle of responsibilities in the South Asian regional security complex. Soviet Invasion and the civil war that prevailed in the aftermath of Soviet withdrawal led to the movement of Afghan people to Pakistan and other countries to seek refuge. Pakistan has been one of the largest hosts of Afghan refugees and the former has fulfilled its role in the name of courtesy, morality, and social responsibility to help its Muslim brother country. But neighboring country India as well as some like-minded people spread disinformation that Afghan refugees are not properly treated in Pakistan and have not been given fundamental necessities of life but the reality is much different from what they have conveyed.

Pakistan is hosting millions of Afghan refugees since 1979 even though Pakistan is neither a signatory to the UN convention on the status of refugees nor to the protocol relating to the status of refugees of 31 January 1967. Numerous arrangements were made by the Pakistani government as well as locals to welcome the Afghan refugees in their homeland. There are about 54 camps operational in Afghanistan out of which 43% of camps are in the province of KPK and about 68% of Afghan refugees live in urban areas while only 32% live in the camps relying on national public services and numerous facilities provided by the Pakistani government. The country has demonstrated exceptional hospitality in hosting Afghan refugees surpassing other countries in terms of protection and support. Even though Pakistan faced numerous socio-economic and security challenges, Pakistan has ensured that these refugees enjoy a wide range of rights including access to healthcare, education, business opportunities, and trade. 

One notable aspect is the provision of education for refugees. They have the privilege of enrolling in government primary schools for free and have access to higher education through generous scholarships. Many Afghan refugees who studied in Pakistan have become successful academicians, sportsmen, and businessmen in a host of other fields and have success stories to narrate. Many Afghan girls and women living in Pakistan as a refugee have become success stories. For example, Dr. Silsila Sherzad is a 30-year-old consultant psychiatrist and trauma therapist in Quetta. Najiba Faiz from Kunduz province of Afghanistan is a well-known television channel host and actor.

Additionally, they receive free treatment in government hospitals indicating Pakistan’s commitment to their well-being. Moreover, the government has created numerous livelihood opportunities for refugees allowing them to support themselves and even send remittances back to their families across the board by doing jobs as well as setting up their businesses. Pakistan’s progressive approach is evident in its inclusion of Afghan refugees in the government’s national response plans during the COVID-19 pandemic by treating Afghan refugees with dignity and providing them with the necessary support Pakistan sets an example for other nations to follow. Pakistan has upheld its international protection obligations and implemented nondiscriminatory policies towards Afghan refugees. These efforts of Pakistan are recognized internationally UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres while addressing the International Conference in Islamabad urged the world to show similar leadership Pakistan has shown in standing with refugees. He said, “Pakistan today is the world’s second-largest refugee hosting country, Pakistan has provided the world with a global public good supporting Afghan refugees, and it’s time for the international community to assume its responsibilities and to support Pakistan very meaningfully”. 

Pakistan has taken significant steps to facilitate the Afghans in various aspects such as medical treatment, business activities, and tourism. Moreover, it has arranged visits by Afghan refugees to their relatives in Afghanistan which remains one of the key initiatives in this regard. Moreover, Pakistan has made efforts to manage the high volume of border crossings by organizing five crossing points with recently added at Chaman in the province of Baluchistan. These crossing points handle a substantial number of passengers with approximately 15 thousand individuals traveling to and from these points per day and around 400,000 per month. Recognizing the importance of smooth cross-border movement a joint committee has been established to address the issues and concerns related to the movement of nationals between Pakistan and Afghanistan these efforts enhance the ease of travel for Afghans and promote stronger ties between 2 neighboring counties. On the contrary, out of 21000 Afghans living in India, about 11000 are registered as asylum-seekers but not officially recognized as refugees. Yet India claims to be an ally and friend of Afghanistan. Unlike Pakistan, neighbors like Iran and Turkey also have strict policies in place for Afghan asylum seekers which include area restrictions and forced repatriation. 

Additionally, the Peshawar high court has recently made a significant decision mandating the issuance of Pakistan-origin cards to Afghan husbands married to Pakistani women this decision aims to provide legal protection and recognition, and documentation to such individuals ensuring their rights and facilitating their integration into Pakistani society. Pakistan has made significant efforts in helping their Muslim country Afghanistan by providing them with numerous facilities ranging from shelter to jobs, and all other necessities of life, and these efforts of Pakistan have been recognized internationally as well.

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