Afghan Refugees Crisis


Phenomenon of refugees’ exodus has assumed an alarming form of a worst international humanitarian crisis in the first quarter of 21st century. Wherever war and violence exists, it begets refugees. When people’s fundamental needs including their life security, shelter and food become jeopardised by an unwanted bloodshed and massacre, they prefer to flee the persecution in an attempt to save their lives. According to UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) currently no fewer than 82.4 million people are taking refuge in various parts of the world. Turkey hosts the largest swath of refugees nearing 3.7 million. Pakistan is also hosting about 1,435,445 registered Afghan refugees. Afghanistan, an immediate neighbour country of Pakistan has been a battle ground for various competing powers for years. It has always faced warfare, annihilation, turmoil and destruction at the hands varying fighting groups. Now, with US and NATO abrupt departure from Afghan soil & Taliban’s return to power has once again sparked fears in civil and military establishments of Pakistan about the fresh imminent wave of Afghan Refugees. It was Soviets’ invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 when Pakistan first time bore a huge burden of Afghan refugees. Subsequently, their numbers were considerably increased after US launched its military operation against Al-Qaida in Afghanistan in 2001. People of Afghanistan are completely reluctant to live under Taliban’s despotic rule. Though Taliban have declared an open amnesty to all Afghans yet people are not ready to forget Taliban’s dark epoch of rule from 1996 to 2001. They have vowed to treat civilians politely and softly and intend to violating no one’s rights especially of women, people are equally skeptical of their statements of assurances and consolations rather preferring to flee. Despite US withdrawal the precarious and volatile situation largely remains there which can be a triggering factor behind a fresh influx of Afghan refugees to Pakistan. For instance, as per (FSB) a Russia’s Intelligence Agency’s reports, forces of President Amarullah Saleh and warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum have launched a full scale armed resistance against Taliban’s ascension to power from Panjshir province. Moreover, seeing Taliban in power, Northern Alliance has also joined hands with Panjshir forces equally resisting Taliban’s takeover. If the confrontation between two sides expands, it will create a chaotic and deteriorating atmosphere for civilians; a situation forcing them to flee those vulnerable abd Insecure areas adding to Refugees influx. Viewing the clashes between the Taliban and resistance forces ,US General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned of a “civil war” if the Taliban fail to consolidate power. Here civil war in Afghanistan also simply means producing more refugees. Furthermore, number of terrorist attacks at Kabul airport killing over 100 civilians including 13 US soldiers has spreaded fear all around; an occurrence pushing Afghans to leave this war ravaged country. Recently, upto 2 million Afghan refugees have also been forcibly returned to Afghanistan together by Turkey, Iran, and European Union who upon seeing the turbulent situations in Afghanistan can march towards Pakistan to seek refuge. The United Nations has already alarmed of new 700000 refugees’ influx to Pakistan by December. Harbouring more refugees would not be free from a toughest challenge for Pakistan. It is already bearing the burden of no fewer than 3 million Afghan refugees, half of them are registered. Hosting new 700000 refugees means Pakistan has to afford the cost of $2.2 billion for three years. How Pakistan’s economy can afford this enormous cost when it is already depending on IMF bailouts. Another big issue is that large number of terrorists will enter Pakistan under the garb of Afghan refugees if Pakistan’s government allows them to take refuge here. Terrorists will pose a greatest threat to the security apparatus of Pakistan by indulging in activities of terrorism and extreamism directly or indirectly doing ham to Pakistan. Following the 1951 convention of Refugees under (UNHCR) and its 1967 protocol, Pakistan always embraced Afghan refugees. This time again the onus lies on government’s shoulders as how sagaciously and prudently it will tackle the newly emerged refugees crisis. Expectedly, government seems to making arrangements on Iranian model, will be keeping newly entered refugees in safe zones nearing border areas in order to restrict their free movements. It can also work on adjusting Afghan internally displaced people on their own soil in safe areas nearing Pakistan’s border. However, Pakistan’s dwindling economy alone can not afford such huge expenses of sheltering a big mammoth of refugees, provision of foods and basic life necessities and requires UNHCR and World Bank to fund Pakistan for all these projects. Nevertheless, it will be a great diplomatic, geopolitical and strategic ingeniousness on part of Pakistan’s government especially its foreign establishment devision to seek a strong consensus among varying combating factions in order to win peace in Afghanistan leading to the prevention of Refugees’ influx. Pakistan along with other international key players including US, China and Russia needs to exert its influence on Taliban and pressure them to bury the hatchet and make peace with all opposing sides in order to form an inclusive government which would be acceptable to all Afghans. Peace, Inclusive government set-up, non violation of human rights, public security and political and economic stability are some measures that can greatly help in satisfying the general public to stay in their own country instead of crossing international borders. Let’s see, how far Pakistan is succeeded in achieving the goal of averting Afghan refugees exodus.