Afghan Refugees are quite important to discuss but before that, we need to know who are Refugees? According to Article 1 0f the 1951 World Refugee Convention, Refugees are those ones who is not in his/her residence or country. This is so because they have founded fear of persecution based on their race, colour, religion, nationality or involvement with a social group or due to their political opinion. Based on this fear, they are unable to return to their homes or national countries they are forced to move abroad. These people are termed, Refugees.
There is a series of flow of Afghan Refugees to Pakistan. Which can be narrow down to 6 phases.
The very first few people took refuge in Pakistan from Afghanistan when the then king of Afghanistan King Zahir Shah was dethroned in a bloodless coup of 1973 by his cousin Muhammad Dawood Khan and became declared himself the president of Afghanistan. After this coup, the people who were loyal to the king and with the royal family some 1500 people flew from Afghanistan to Pakistan.
This period was more anarchic for the Afghans than ever because president Dawood was replaced by a communist-backed or USSR ally Nur Muhammad Tarakai’s PDPA in 1978. Nur Muhammad himself was replaced in a coup by Hafizullah Amin in 1979. Which results in a 1,93,000 refugee influx in Pakistan.
During this decade 3.5 million Afgan Refugees entered Pakistan making Pakistan the largest refugee-hosting nation in the entire world at that time.
during this period Afghanistan was plunged into civil war after the vacuum created by USSR by withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan. This vacuum was to be filled by someone so militants geared up for strongholds, resulting in the success of the Taliban in 1996 to form an Islamic government. Due to all these war and chaos refugees number increased from a 3.2million in 1990 to 3.24 mill in 1992.
After the establishment of the Taliban regime in 1996, the world shows hostility towards the Afghan government and UNHCR and other international donors closed Refugee Assistance. From 1996-1999, 90 thousand refugees entered Pakistan and in 2000, 172 thousand were the number.
- 2000 onwards
The famous Bonn Agreement of 2002 by various Afghan delegates and the removal of the Taliban from power intended to be more feasible for Afghanistan but it’s more anarchic. Till the 2007 Taliban Spring, there was more repatriation of refugees than entered Pakistan.
All these data and statistics from 1979-2000 and onwards are from the officials of UNHCR and all these are just the registered numbers. With the porous Pak-Afghan border, the numbers look quite low.
Afghan Refugees and Stability of Pakistan
Pakistan being the ally of the US in the Jihadi war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The collaboration continues as Pakistan permit its land to use against the Taliban in Afghanistan behind the Global War on Terror. Being in proximity to Pakistan, Pashto Language is quite important and understands both in Afghanistan and the KPK province of Pakistan and also they culturally more similar than to other areas of Pakistan.
The Afghan Refugees or maybe some Taliban entered into Pakistan through the porous Durand Line and tried to create insecurity. They use the Refugee camps as their hideouts and also created the Kalashnikov culture in Pakistan with drugs in excessive use at the same time. With an already adverse economic situation all these created instabilities within Pakistan.
the sense of Pakistan must be the home to every Muslim in the 1980s has been dramatically moved on self-centred claims as Muslim nations hardly can bear their problems at home and Pakistan has no exception. Then the idea that the longer the refugees remain within any society the greater would be the chances of becoming a political force in that country.
Current Statistics of Afghan Refugees in Pakistan
The number of Afghan Refugees are always not confirmed because of the movement of Afghanis through the porous Durand Line before blocking by Pakistan. After border management of Pakistan, the Refugee numbers are quite low because all the refugees need to be registered. But those who entered before the Border Fencing are just the registered ones. The undocumented may be more than the registered ones.
The only census of Afghan Refugees was done in 2005 by joint collaboration of PCO, GoA and the UNHCR. Results were like 61% in KPK, 25% in Balochistan, 6.8% in Punjab, 4.5% in AJ&K and the rest 5% in other areas with a 3% growth rate as claimed by the UNHCR. Making the number of Refugees to 1.4 million total. Out of which many were repatriated voluntarily and forcibly and sometimes like the Taliban Spring many more took refugee in Pakistan after 2005. Today the estimated registered Afghan Refugees are 1.4 million in Pakistan.
Situation without US Forces
The United States invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11 and forming the Karzai government backed by the US which is obviously rejected by the Taliban. Now the Afghan government of today and the US is unsuccessful to form a consensus on the future of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US forces from its soil. Without any future direction the US decided to Withdraw its forces from Afghanistan just like what was done by then USSR which plunged Afghanistan in the bloodiest civil war in early 1990s.
If all the forces left Afghanistan then the land is an open area for the lion to roar and muscled its fragile enemy. The basic education the US underestimated is the withdrawal of the USSR back then. If the USSR left without any future direction for Afghanistan and civil war broke out then how can one trust on some other situation than any possible civil war? The civil war creates instability and people will not feel safe to live in their country between the battle of warlords.
Therefore they look for options nearby to settle and Pakistan is more feasible for the Afghans. It’s my analysis that the refugee influx would be far more alarming because we already hosting the 1.4million of them compromising our security and we couldn’t bear more of them.
With refugees, the Afghan may bring like before the drug culture which is on a rising number in Pakistan already causes a rocketing increase. Secondly, the Kalashnikov culture which became quite low after many operations by Pakistan Army in the last decade. All these should be kept in mind and try to mediate between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan Government to have a consensus for the greater cause of Afghanistan and the region before the US withdrawal.
Being optimistic I can say that there would be a safe Afghanistan like never before and the state will grow and we will live with each other in a peaceful region. But being a realist its looks like that the US want Afghanistan to be in civil war again because back home in the US there is more pressure on the Biden admin to withdraw its forces because of the cost which is growing day by day and counting exceeding
Back home, there isn’t much good performing health system which itself exposed during the recent pandemic which demands more money rather than bombing other nations including Afghanistan. If you hit property, lives and emotions of innocents intentionally then in the near or future you will also face the consequences with force just like what had done by you before with them.