WHAT must be the fate of those who migrated to Pakistan from Afghanistan almost three decades back? Will the Ashraf Ghani government say them welcome if the government of Pakistan sternly decides to push them back to the land they actually belong to? And what would be the choice of these refugees if they are given an option to stay in Pakistan or to go back to Afghanistan? There are countless questions regarding the issue of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. These Afghan refugees started coming to Pakistan somewhere in 1979. Those were the days when the whole of Afghanistan had turned into a bloody battlefield and life for the innocent people who were neither among the Taliban nor with the Russian forces became simply a blazing hell.
After a long period of ten years, in 1989 the Russian troops had to say good-bye to the Afghan lands but even after their withdrawal, peace remained an unfulfilled dream for the people of Afghanistan. There had been a state of civil war in Afghanistan. The Taliban had been trying their best to get hold on the whole system and somewhere in 1996 they succeeded in capturing Kabul and establishing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Story did not stop here. US had a very old dream of ruling over Afghanistan through its proxy-rulers and it always wanted to bring India into the Afghan scenario as the representative of US but this situation was certainly never acceptable to Pakistan. The Taliban were also of the opinion that no foreign forces had any right to intervene in Afghan situation. A state of clash and conflict continued for many years and at last the US and NATO forces entered Afghanistan making the 9/11 attacks the basis of this intervention.
In the beginning this intervention was given the name of the War against Terrorism but with the passage of time it was exposed that 9/11 and the War against Terrorism were simply lame excuses, the actual target was to materialise the centuries old dream of capturing Afghanistan. In short, since 1979 till 2016, Afghanistan has always been in a state of war; the unfortunate people of Afghanistan could never see dawning of a peaceful day. During all that period they were left only with two options; either to become a part of that war or take shelter in Pakistan as refugees. So most of the Afghans went for the second option; they simply crossed the Durand Line and entered a safe haven named as Pakistan. Today according to an estimate there are more than 2.7 million Afghan nationals living in Pakistan. These refugees are a huge burden on Pakistan’s economy because Pakistan has to spend a lot on their food, accommodation, clothing, health and education.
So many of these refugees have succeeded in getting fake identity cards and now they claim that they are the nationals of Pakistan. The intelligence agencies of Pakistan and the law enforcement authorities have so many times pointed out the involvement of these Afghan Refugees in serious crimes like drug-trafficking, targeted-killings and kidnapping for ransom. But the most painful aspect of their presence is that so many agents of the Indian RA&W and Afghanistan’s NDS enter Pakistan in guise of the refugees and create law and order problems. Such agents were arrested from different parts of Pakistan for their involvement in terrorist activities. Recently the law enforcement agencies arrested six agents of the Afghan intelligence agency, NDS from Balochistan. According to the media details they were arrested from different Afghan refugee camps.
The culprits admitted that they had killed at least 40 innocent Pakistanis in last few months. Everyone knows that NDS is an agency more hostile to Pakistan even than the RA&W. Last year, the government of Pakistan and the government of Afghanistan had arranged signing of a cooperation agreement between the NDS and the ISI but unfortunately NDS’ former chief Rahmatullah Nabil absented himself from the meeting willingly as he was not in favour of any such co-operation agreement. Now the situation regarding the Afghan refugees is getting more serious day by day as the agents of the NDS are simply trying to make things complicated for Pakistan. The better option for the government of Pakistan is to send all the refugees back to Afghanistan so that Pakistan may concentrate on its own problems in a better way.
—The writer is freelance columnist based in Multan.