Afghan Refugees In Pakistan: Reasons And Implications

The time when Pakistani people welcomed Afghan refugees is now a part of history. With persistence problems of Taliban and growing sentiment against the politics of violence, Pakistani people are no more enthusiastic about having more refugees from Afghanistan. Afghan refugees suffer from this change.
Afghan Refugees in Pakistan: Reasons and Implications
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A large exodus of refugees from another country can create complexities, particularly when associated with things like terrorism, religious fanaticism, failing states and overall chaos. That is what exists today in the Pakistan Afghanistan equation complicated by several other factors and issues. How did it happen and where it will lead to is important to chalk out a way forward.


An Unfortunate Tale

The unfortunate tale of Afghan refugees in Pakistan is a sordid tale of ordinary humans unintentionally caught in a typhoon of destruction, violence and global politics. It is also a tale of an ordinary man being exploited in the

name of religion; a man who has lost everything, being offered empowerment through the barrel of a gun. It is a tale of the man who was forced by circumstances beyond his comprehension into a struggle for survival that took him to alien lands and people, neither knowing what to expect nor having an idea as to when he can return.

Refugees, Not Immigrants

The phenomenon of Afghan refugees is not the same as that of Afghan immigrants. Afghans have been travelling Southward into what then was India for ages, in search of greener pastures and new opportunities for trade and employment. Many Kings and Emperors had Afghan warriors as their Commanders, and their reputation as trustworthy and brave soldiers and good human beings always came as an asset for those who wished to travel Southwards for adventure or habitat. The trickle of immigrants turned into a refugee exodus during the seventies as the struggle to control Afghanistan became entangled with the cold war.

The Geopolitical Background and History

The history of Afghanistan is a reflection of its geo-political situation. It is surrounded by three major forces - the Indian subcontinent on the East, Central Asia & Russia on the North and Persian & Islamic powers on the West. For ages, these three powers have been struggling for its control. After the invasion of Alexander in fourth century BC, he left his commanders to rule.

Since that time, the power has kept shifting between different factions and rulers. It became a part of the great Mauryan empire of India, and later the Buddhist Kushan empire in 1st century BC took it to its zenith in terms of development in arts and culture. A 4th century invasion by Hun tribes from Central Asia destroyed the whole country and left it in ruins.

Subsequently Persian-Islamic conquest of Afghanistan laid the foundation of Islamic control in 7th century AD. During the next thousand years, it witnessed Chengez Khan, Tamer Lung, Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali, all Mongol invaders from Central Asia who repeatedly plundered it. In eighteenth century, it again became the centre of a new geo-political struggle between British, who had gained control of India, the Russian empire and the Persian rulers.

The Communist Revolution of 1970s

After the great 'Saur' revolution in April 1978, Afghanistan was taken over by socialist-communist forces lead by Nur Mohammad Taraki and Babrak Karmal. As they established a communist style rule, and introduced reforms such as education and equal opportunity for

women, banning of religious fundamentalism and propagating secular education, they again came in to conflict with Islamic hardliners who this time around had support of villagers who were not comfortable with these changes, and the landlords who had lost their land to communist reforms.

The PDPA government tried to crack down but did not succeed creating a de-facto civil war. As Russian supported communist government weakened, Afghanistan became the battle-field for two great struggles - the cold war between two superpowers, and the ideological war between Islam and communism.

Taliban and Al Qaida

This struggle led to the emergence of Taliban, a faction of Islamic fighters supported by Pakistan and United States through their Intelligence apparatus, as well as the Northern Alliance, consisting of Central Asian tribals. By the time cold war came to an end, the two winning factions were getting into another round of struggle for dominance.

Al Qaida, created by Osama bin Laden after his breaking away from the Maktab-el-Khidamat began pointing guns at the Western world and the post 9/11 invasion of Afghanistan by US troupes meant that the misfortune of Afghan people was not going to leave them in a hurry.

A Whole Generation of Refugees

The exodus of men from Afghanistan in to Pakistan has thus continued amidst changing power equations since late 1970s.

By now, refugees have continued for more than a generation. These men without education, without skills, without families and without hope have often been the softest targets for recruiters of Jihad. For these men, guns and bombs are the most familiar tools. For the perpetrators of jihad, they are the best tools. The mutual need satisfies itself in a way that their existence often became an asset rather than being a problem.

Social Impacts of Refugee Problem

However, the adverse impacts of the refugee problem is rearing its head now in a way that is affecting everyone. The one and a half generation of refugees is creating its own dynamics and problems in places where they have settled. The continuing of jehad from Pakistani bases also leads to retaliation by US in the reform of missile attacks, which creates further resentment in jehadi supporters within Pakistan as well as ordinary citizens who resent US strikes.

The social issues, the economic problems, the problems related to law and order and the concentration of this problem in NWFP, which has its history of being uncontrollable is now giving rise to concern and apprehensions.

In the middle of all these, the poor Afghan refugee is without a clue as to where his fate is going to take him next.

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