Tuesday November 30, 2021

Uncertainty More people feared to flee Afghanistan

August 24, 2021

PESHAWAR: As more Afghan nationals are feared to flee to Pakistan due to the uncertainty in the neighbouring country, the refugees living in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa say their homeland needs durable peace so that all those abroad can return and help rebuild Afghanistan.

Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been living in Peshawar and other parts of the province and the rest of the country for the last over four decades. A large number of them were born and raised here and now their second and third generations are living in Pakistan.

According to the official figures 1.4 million Afghan refugees are living in Pakistan. There are tens of thousands of other Afghan nationals in KP who are not registered as refugees. “We want peace in Afghanistan to return to our homeland and help rebuild our war-hit country. It’s been decades of violence and war that should end now,” an Afghan fruit vendor from the suburban Peshawar, Yasin Khan, told The News.

“The good thing after Taliban took over our country is that except a few areas, violence has stopped in most parts of the country. Thousands of people want to flee abroad due to fear and uncertainty but things seem relatively better compared to the last time Taliban had taken control,” said Aziz ur Rehman, an Afghan who was born in Peshawar around 35 years ago.

“There are thousands of Afghan families living happily in Pakistan and do not want to go back to their country due to the law and order situation as well as lack of basic facilities,” said Zahoor Ahmad, a baker (tandoor wala) who was a kid when he came along with his parents after the now-defunct USSR invaded Afghanistan.

He said that several of his countrymen are doing businesses, go to schools and enjoy life like other locals in Peshawar and they don’t want to go back. “Many of those who returned to the country a few years ago with the assistance from UNHCR came back to Pakistan after some time. Not the change of any government but durable peace can make these people go back to Afghanistan to help reconstruction and development there,” he added.

Apart from those living in the country, there are thousands of others who come to Pakistan frequently for treatment, visit relatives, do business and for other purposes.

A large number of Afghans have reportedly got Pakistani documents and have been availing all the facilities like local people for decades.The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has lauded the people and the government of Pakistan for hosting a large number of refugees for decades.

“The government and people of Pakistan have a commendable, decades-long history of providing asylum and protection to displaced Afghans. UNHCR calls on Pakistan to uphold its hospitality and generosity in case of new arrivals and keep its border open,” a spokesperson for the UNHCR, Qaiser Khan Afridi, told The News, adding the UNHCR is committed to support the government and respond to any assistance required.

“At the moment we have not observed any large-scale international displacement from Afghanistan. Any major influx would clearly require the international community to step up immediate and sustained support to both Afghanistan and its neighbours, in a spirit of responsibility and burden-sharing,” said the UNHCR official.

According to the UNHCR, violence and insecurity had prompted the displacement of some 550,000 people within Afghanistan this year. Some 65 per cent of the Afghan population — within and outside of Afghanistan – are children and young people.