Uneasy settlements

January 26, 2020

Concept and photos by Rahat Dar

The Afghan refugees, who fled their war-ravaged country in the late 1980s, have since been trying to naturalise. 

Some were forced to return to their homeland. Those left behind haven’t had it easy; they are among the poorest lot of people who move from place to place, city to city, like nomads; basing themselves along the way in filthy, makeshift camps —katchi abadis — in suburbs. 

The fortunate ones find odd jobs — they can be seen hawking dry-roasted nuts and grains at roadside stalls in different parts of Lahore, or offering to polish shoes, or, if they are luckier, captaining rickshaws and working as salesmen in downscale cloth markets in the likes of Shadman and Gulberg areas.

These Pashto-speaking men have efficiently picked some Urdu/Punjabi terms, but they haven’t given up on their traditional shalwar-kamees and Pathani topi. 

Their women engage themselves in house chores such as fetching buckets of water from a source nearby, doing the washing-up, cooking food, while the children frolic about, free from the worries of the world. They aren’t sent to schools.

But it won’t be long before they are thrust into the throes of the merciless world out there, to fend for themselves — and also, possibly, for the entire family.

Uneasy settlements: Hardships Afghan refugees face in Pakistan