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World Refugee Day: Call for urgent humanitarian help for exiled Afghan journalists in Pakistan

By Our Correspondent
June 20, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Media watchdog Freedom Network has called on the federal government and the international community, including media support groups, to extend exiled Afghan journalists suspended in limbo in Pakistan maximum support in helping them cope with rising living costs and opportunities to continue working as journalists, says a press release.

The appeal was made on the eve of the World Refugee Day marked globally, including in Pakistan, on June 20 every year.

“Exiled Afghan journalists living in Pakistan are in dire need of urgent humanitarian assistance. They need to be supported to rebuild their lives shattered by collapse of the Afghan media in the wake of 15 August 2021 political change in Kabul,” Iqbal Khattak, Executive Director of Freedom Network, said.

“The irony is that these Afghan journalists are neither given refugee status nor they have means to live without support from the Pakistani government, the UNHCR and the international community. This situation must change – the exiled journalists and their families in Pakistan deserve help from all of us,” he added.

Young Afghan journalist Ahmed Naveed Kawish sold his wife’s gold ornaments to make ends meet while waiting for visa after he was interviewed early this year for resettlement in Europe. “Whatever I had was sold to make living (in exile in Pakistan) possible. With nothing more to sell, I am now worried sick for my family as no assistance is coming from any side,” he told Freedom Network.

Hundreds of Afghan journalists were forced to leave their homeland after Taliban took power in Kabul and many of them were evacuated to resettle in Europe and North America. Many others still find themselves stranded in Pakistan nearly two years after their painful exile began and where their future remains uncertain.

In the spirit of humanism and in line with Pakistan’s historical tradition of hosting refugees, for which there is rightful international recognition, Khattak urged the federal government to renew visas for these Afghan journalists and let the UN refugee agency UNHCR register them as refugees to qualify for international humanitarian assistance.

He also urged the authorities to stop arresting the exiled journalists and their family members for no fault of their own over the pretext of “expired visas” and practice grace and understanding of the desperate plights of the unwilling emigres.