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Sunday, 10 December 2023
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"Pakistan's Balancing Act: Afghan Refugees, Security, and Responsibility"


 By Sehr Rushmeen

The issue of Afghan refugees in Pakistan is a long-standing and difficult one, and it has received additional attention in recent years as security concerns and the threat of terrorism have grown. For decades, Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghan refugees, exhibiting tremendous compassion and generosity. However, as security worries grow, Pakistan must address these issues by returning illegal and unregistered Afghan refugees. It is critical to emphasize that this judgment does not apply to Afghan refugees who have lived in Pakistan for decades and have legal documentation. Misconceptions, such as the claim that Pakistan is expelling all Afghans, must be debunked to understand the rationale behind this move.

It is critical to recognize Pakistan's long history of receiving Afghan refugees with open arms. Pakistan has provided a safe haven for millions of Afghan refugees since the first wave departed their homeland owing to conflict and instability. The Afghan-Pakistan connection is a testament to the two countries' brotherly bonds. The hospitality shown by Pakistan to Afghan refugees cannot be emphasized. However, when time passes and new issues occur, it is vital to re-evaluate the situation.

Pakistan has faced a considerable increase in security worries in recent years, notably those related to terrorism. Undocumented or unregistered Afghan refugees constitute a significant security danger. While the majority of Afghan refugees are innocent citizens seeking sanctuary, others may use their refugee status for malicious motives, such as engaging in criminal or terrorist operations. Unfortunately, some incidents involving Afghan refugees have occurred in Pakistan, raising severe security concerns.

The obligation of the government is to safeguard the safety and security of its population. Given the rising security problems, Pakistan must take steps to identify and address these issues, including returning illegal and unregistered Afghan refugees. This is not a blanket removal of all Afghans, but a targeted approach to mitigating the security dangers provided by a minority.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of disinformation and propaganda floating around about this topic. One of the most destructive myths is that Pakistan is removing all Afghan refugees. This is absolutely not the case. The ruling is intended at those who are undocumented or unregistered in Pakistan and do not have a legitimate cause to stay. It is critical to distinguish between this targeted approach and the Afghan refugees who have been legally resident in Pakistan for centuries.

It should be noted that many Afghan refugees have integrated into Pakistani society, adding to the country's cultural and economic variety. These people, as well as their second and third generations, are not subject to deportation. Pakistan recognizes their rights and contributions and has no plans to expel them.

For decades, Pakistan has shown incredible compassion in hosting Afghan migrants, but it is now facing a new reality typified by increased security challenges. Pakistan, as a responsible nation, must take steps to secure its borders and protect its citizens. The decision to deal with the issue of undocumented and unregistered Afghan refugees is in accordance with international conventions and Pakistan's sovereign right to defend its territory.

There are around 1.7 million undocumented Afghan refugees who must flee or face deportation. This action comes amid an escalating security crisis, with the Afghan interior ministry saying that Afghan citizens were responsible for 14 of the 24 suicide bombings in Pakistan in 2023. Pakistan, which has long hosted Afghan refugees, is struggling to protect its population in the face of growing extremist threats and a protracted economic crisis.

However, since 2021, the security scene has changed considerably, with the Taliban consolidating authority in Afghanistan. Pakistan currently claims that it can no longer support such a huge number of Afghan refugees, particularly those who lack Afghan citizenship or proof of registration (PoR) cards. Pakistan's administration has made this difficult decision in order to handle the country's chronic economic crises and mounting security concerns, which have been compounded by Afghan nationals' involvement in suicide attacks.

This issue highlights a bigger argument regarding governments' obligation to refugees. While humanitarian organizations have criticized Pakistan's action, it shows the difficulties that countries confront in balancing their duty to safeguard their own population with their humanitarian commitments to refugees. The Afghan issue is evolving, and Pakistan, like many other countries, is struggling with its intricacies.

Every nation, in an ideal world, would provide a safe haven for anyone fleeing conflict or persecution. The reality, however, is significantly more complicated. Governments must emphasize their populations' security and well-being. As normalcy returns to Afghanistan, the international community must collaborate to handle the numerous problems created by refugee crises, attempting to find solutions that balance humanitarian concerns with national security goals. Pakistan's decision to order Afghan refugees to leave underscores the complexities at hand, as well as the critical need for a coordinated international response to the Afghan refugee problem.


Author’s Bio

Sehr Rushmeen, an Islamabad based freelance researcher, with area of research interest in Strategic Nuclear Studies and Warfare

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