October 12, 2016Print : Peshawar
Say they came to Pakistan on donkeys but going back in luxurious vehicles
PESHAWAR: After spending more than 30 years in Pakistan, most of the Afghan refugees leaving for their country said many of them had come here on donkeys but were returning in luxurious vehicles.
“We had reached Akora Khattak from Afghanistan’s Baghlan province in seven days because we crossed mountains on foot and on donkeys. We had one Holy Quran, a radio set, a kettle and a few teacups and some clothes when we entered Pakistan,” said Khan Mohammad, the head of an Afghan family commonly known as Amir Sahib.
“We were 10 persons in our family when we crossed over the Pak-Afghan border. Now we have almost 50 family members and are taking our luggage in vehicles on the road amidst love and affection of our Pakistani brothers and sisters in a respectable manner,” he told The News in the presence of his children and their Pakistani friends sitting with them after helping them pack and load their luggage onto a vehicle.
“The governments on both sides take their own decisions, but the people here don’t want us to go back. They are worried for us when they come to see us off,” he said. “When we were coming here, we were not allowed by the then Afghan government and crossed the border through unfrequented routes, but now we are going back in the broad daylight,” he remarked.
“We spent our first night in Pakistan in a newly constructed mosque in Scheme Chowk on the Kohat Road in Peshawar. This was the day of Eidul Fitr where everyone was enjoying but we slept without having food,” Khan Mohammad recalled.
“Since some of our relatives had reached Akora Khattak before us, we followed them. We spent two nights without food and were so hungry. We could not even wait for a roti to be properly cooked to eat it,” he said. He added he couldn’t forget that moment, but “now we are taking uncooked food items which would be sufficient for us for months.”
“My eight brothers and five sisters got married here. All of them have children and our total family members are 50,” Khan Mohammad said, adding the same was the case with his uncles and relatives.
“My elders remained in Akora Khattak camp but I shifted to Mianwali after one year. I remained there for eight years and later moved to Mardan,” he recalled.He said his father was upset when he couldn’t attend the funeral of his aunt in Kabul due to the sudden decision of Pakistan government to send the Afghan refugees back.
Those present endorsed Khan Mohammad’s statement, pointing out that many Afghans built houses in the refugees’ camps and were now demolishing the structures. “My neighbour constructed a room by spending Rs100,000, but he couldn’t use it even for a single night. He demolished it and started packing up after the announcement was made,” Khan Mohammad said.
“Almost all refugees are worried for the education of their children,” he said, adding, life in Kabul is expensive and they cannot afford to stay there.“There is no peace in many places in Afghanistan, particularly in our native province Baghlan, where you have to side with the Taliban or the government. There is no other choice. Our children would have to take up arms if they stay in villages and there will be no future for them,” Khan Mohammad opined.
He said that Taliban had strongholds in their areas but they cannot face aerial bombing of US-led forces that don’t care for the Afghan population. However, Khan Mohammad said everything would be alright with the passage of time. “We have to remain optimistic. I want the Afghan government to help out children to receive education,” he said.