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Posted: October 13, 2001

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Afghan Refugees Influx into Pakistan

by Sobia Nisar

NWFP Governor Lt. Gen (Retd) Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah has assured that registered refugees would not be repatriated from Pakistan but those staying illegally would be subjected to screening procedure. The screening procedure would started from June 20 to determine status of those who came to Pakistan recently.

Migration of Afghan Refugees According to a survey report, about 175,000 Afghans arrived in Pakistan since September last year. Another survey report shows that 186 fresh arrivals have been reported  at the Jalozai makeshift refugee camp in the hope of assistance during the last one week time period. These families have migrated from Jauzjan and Baghlan provinces of Afghanistan after travelling and walking for more than a week to cross the Pak-Afghan border after lots  of difficulties.

Worthwhile mention, Pakistan has provided all moral and material support to Afghans after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan till its liberation. Services made by Pakistan were even recognized and praised by the whole Muslim Ummah, the world community at large.

Pakistan has always provided assistance to Afghanistan as a brotherly country.

However, presently the situation has been   altered as the recent arrival of refugees had economic and other reasons like drought in their country.

Pakistan itself is facing severe economic crisis. Afghan war and the influx of Afghan refugees into Pakistan has halted business activities in Pakistan which has automatically resulted in unemployment in our country. Further, the presence of illegal Afghans on our soil has increased the crime rate also. Presence of illegal Afghans  has made our people unhappy to a considerable extent and our people are regularly complaining against illegal refugee influx and their activities here in Pakistan.

Worth mentioning, Pakistan is well aware of the problems faced by the Afghans living in Afghanistan but it does not mean that Afghans should migrate to Pakistan to save themselves from their domestic problems. In fact, no other country in the world would afford such a big number of illegal immigrants. It would be better if  the  Afghans illegally settled in NWFP should voluntarily go back to their country and start re-building their own country. Nevertheless, Pakistan would be pleased to help such returnees as they might take food and medicines from Pakistan besides construction equipment to rebuild their country.

The Taliban government can play a positive role in this regard by adopting flexible attitude towards the people. For example, by giving more opportunities of education to Afghani women  and helping the common people out of their problems.

Even the Pakistani government and the Pakistani people can help the miserable Afghans by raising up economic funds for them and by extending moral and educational support to them

Ordinary Afghans are weary, tired and scared. The present refugee crisis is adding to their deprivations.

The phenomenon of Afghan refugees is not new to Pakistan. The first event that occurred a very small number of refugees between 1973 to 1978 were about 1,500 when political exiles of Daud regime sought and received asylum in Pakistan. Later, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan turned that trickle into a flood of refugees. At present there are millions of registered and unregistered refugees residing in Pakistan.

Causes of Migration. The current influx of refugees has several important factors responsible for it. A large portion of these refugees have fled because economic opportunities have exhausted for them within their own country. Heavy Pakhtun-Tajik fighting has made it extremely difficult for many to continue earning their livelihood and has forced them to leave their homes. Loss of employment has also been due to destruction of the infrastructure, lack of competence on the part of  the fundamentalist regime of  the Taliban. Many people employed by or sympathetic to the former government have been judged as unsuitable and, therefore, incompetent for jobs. Moreover, they are harassed to display an active support to the Taliban, otherwise they stand to lose their jobs if they refuse to do so.

Taliban authorities have imposed ban on the use of internet facility in a bid to ward off moral waywardness and block outflow of anti-government information to the rest of the world. This order issued by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Kandahar, covers all the UN agencies, NGOs and individuals not to use the facility anymore in Kabul. The ban on the internet, a facility only available in Kabul at the moment is difficult to prove effective as they are yet to develop a mechanism to block the satellite telephone systems available to the foreign NGOs and the UN agencies working inside Afghanistan.

Taliban allowed the Hindus to carry a special identity card to avoid embarrassment at the hands of the religious police forcing Muslims to attend mosques during prayer times. Education facilities are already non-existent in Afghanistan since the fall of the communist regime while Taliban imposed ban on women education and banning them from working at offices and other institutions.

A majority of Afghan people has opposed the restrictive policies against women imposed by Taliban leadership. Over 90 percent of women and men “strongly support the rights of women restricted by the Taliban government”. Afghani women are constantly in need of a lasting peace, aid and proper health care, education and economic infrastructure that can support them. More than 80 percent of the Afghans are of the view that women should be allowed to move about freely as Islamic teachings did not restrict women’s humans rights as the Taliban contends.

According to a report 98 percent of women in Taliban controlled areas said the Taliban has made their lives “much worse”and attributed their declining mental and physical health to its policies.

There are migrants who suffer imprisonment and fear arrest or execution as members of suspect families. They also face alienation in their societies as they oppose Talibanic fundamentalism and the philosophy associated with their regime. Thus the pro-Taliban stance prevailing in the society alienates them. The Taliban exercise their control by punishing those who are in opposition. Thus, alienation  is taking the form of flight.

The refugees have also increased because of the  natural disaster that has befallen their country of the draught. For those on the losing side of the civil war, however, the defeat is very much a disaster. Following the Soviet withdrawal, the civil war has brought bloodshed and political turmoil with no apparent end, pushing the country on the verge of destruction. The Taliban’s techniques to reduce its collective consciousness has affected the Afghan society so severely that a member is incapable of asserting his voice. Thus, the toiling masses of Afghanistan have now come under the yoke of Taliban even though they may have achieved political liberation from the foreign yoke. A society can flourish only in a democratic, liberal and progressive environment but the conservative and orthodox Taliban are against any such idea. Their roguish and reactionary attitude is not only isolating Afghanistan from the rest of the world but is also forcing their companions to leave their homeland.

There can be no real peace and justice in Afghanistan unless the war comes to an end. The vested interests and manipulating interests of the US  that supported the Islamists against the Soviets have now entered a new phase. The two key supporters of  Afghanistan’s  so-called jihad, the US and Pakistan have changed their priorities to pressurize the Taliban in order to fulfil the agenda of the New World Order. Pakistan’s recent refusal to accommodate the fresh wave of refugees is a part of the same power play .

Effects on Pakistan. There has always been unrest among the Pakistani population  regarding the massive Afghan refugee influx. In the past, several factions of the society expressed their reservations about its economic, political and religious repercussions. Yet as long as the US backed the Afghan jihad Pakistan warmly accepted the refugees and turned a deaf ear to such expressions of concern. Consequently, the refugee camps became arms depot  and training havens for the Mujahideens. They also provided the means for influencing action in favour of the American propaganda. In this context, many American groups were established to aid the cause of the Afghan people.

Undoubtedly, it is only due to the Taliban generated turmoil in Pakistan’s internal politics, and the negative economic and religious impact of Afghan presence in Pakistan  (especially in the NWFP)  that we can no longer absorb the Afghans in our society. Politicians of whatever stripe must take this reality into account.

Efforts to persuade the Government of Pakistan by the UN High Commissioner of Refugees Rued Lubber to register thousands of Afghan refugees in Jalozai have failed. The UN peace envoy to Afghanistan reports that ordinary Afghans want peace and access to health and education. They will also support anyone who is willing to come forward to improve their lives. But mere rhetoric holds no water.

Resolve Afghan Problems. The only way to resolve the problems of ordinary people of  Afghanistan is to revolutionize their consciousness so that they could realize their role in the society, identify their real enemy, and free themselves from the yoke of the ignorant usurpers  of this century. But  for this to happen in reality the refugees will have to return to Afghanistan. The war cannot be stopped  without the pressure of these homeless people. Regretfully there is no organized force within Afghanistan to resist the Taliban-inflicted catastrophe. Until revolutionary and liberal forces within Afghanistan  take positive and practical steps, the beggary and covert of ordinary Afghans will not end. Therefore, there is a greater need of maximizing progressive effectiveness, particularly in dealing with the Taliban and the US mastery in air. Attempts to achieve peace must be expedited by the ordinary Afghans themselves because it is they who are suffering the most. At the end of the day, it is the Afghans themselves who have to decide whether to fight or not. To bring peace to Afghanistan, and to work for a proper political solution, more active role and time should be given in persuading the Talibans and convincing them to adopt a more liberal attitude. There should be a modest improvement for Afghan women under the Taliban including access to and quality of healthcare, education and economic activities. This can be done in accordance and with the aid of humanitarian aid community.

The solution of the Afghan problem lies in creating short-and long-term policy initiatives on domestic, regional and international fronts. A long standing and durable peace in Afghanistan is crucial in  for stability in Pakistan. The Afghan minorities have been treated badly and women have no status in the Afghan society. The Taliban regime has brought a “violent” kind of peace in Afghanistan and that  is not only disastrous for the Afghan society but also for Pakistan. Pakistan must try to work for a genuine broad based solution that has the confidence of the regional states, and of the various segments of the Afghan society. The sooner peace comes to Afghanistan, the better for the entire region including Pakistan.

The Pakistani government should negate any kind of propaganda  extended by some outside circles against Pakistan  on this issue of repatriating Afghans from Pakistan stressing on the fact that these countries would not even allow the entry of refugees.

Noteworthy, Maulvi Najeebullah (the Afghan Consul General) has thanked Pakistan and the NWFP government for taking care of these Afghan refugees. He said that the people of Afghanistan would never forget all that Pakistan had done for them.

Analyzing the current situation, it is hoped that with the passage of time the brotherly relations between the two countries would strengthen further and gain more momentum.

International Assistance to Afghanistan, the United Nations and the aid community have worked in all areas of Afghanistan to assist needy people regardless of ethnicity and political affiliation. In 2001, WFP food aid has reached almost four million needy Afghans out of a total population estimated at between 20 to 22 million. Over 800,000 victims of emergencies, natural and man-made will receive food aid, while over 430,000 Afghans mainly women and children, receive heavily subsidised bread from WFP bakeries in Kabul and Mazar.

The mine action programme has trained over seven million Afghans in mine awareness, cleared 550 million square meters of land and destroyed 1.6 million explosives, rendering farmlands and residential areas safe. The international community has built or rehabilitated drinking water schemes and wells in hundreds of communities.

It has immunised millions of children with over 5 million being reached in each round of polio vaccination. In every sector, the assistance community has helped millions of Afghans by trying to fill in the massive gap left by warring parties, who for years have devoted their resources to guns rather than butter. The aid community has been the provision of stable employment for Afghans in Afghanistan. It has employed more than 25,000 Afghans with the mine action programme being the single largest provider of decent paid employment in the country.

The UNDP managed PEACE programme is a model for replication once peace comes to Afghanistan. The coordinated initiatives in the areas of food security, disability, infrastructure  and governance employ local people in their areas of origin, help stem migration, keep families alive, and provide hope for the future. The PEACE has also helped in the formation of over 1,200 community organizations. These help improve stability and promote peace locally in the areas in which they operate.

In 2000, the combination of conflict and drought triggered a major displacement of Afghans. At present, about 800,000 Afghans have left their homes, with at least half a million internally displaced inside Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan are facing the most serious humanitarian crisis in the recent history of the country. Numbers of internally displaced are as follows:

Northeast over 100,000

North 115,000

West 150,000

South 130,000

Hazarajat 60,000+

Estimates of Afghans stranded in villages who lack the money to pay for transport to leave vary between one to two million people.

The aid community has provided food to thousands of the displaced and shelter of various kinds — from mud houses to tents to plastic sheets — to almost 200,000 of the newly internally displaced. It has also intervened with local authorities to make available vacant public buildings for sheltering the displaced and has helped to winterise these public buildings. It has provided for basic needs like blankets, quilts, clothing, watercans, soap, cooking kits, fuel and other non-food items in so far as resources have permitted. Without this aid, undoubtedly, several thousands Afghans would have fled to neighbouring countries.

In 2001, Afghanistan faces an accumulated deficit accrued during 23 years of war, massive under-development, humans rights violations and the worst drought in living memory.

In 2000 over 200,000 people became displaced as a direct consequence of heavy fighting in the spring and summer and none of them has been able to return to their homes. In addition, in summer 2000, internal displacement in Afghanistan has occurred year after year. In Kabul, nearly half of the city’s 1.8 million residents are people who have taken refuge there over the past six to eight years because of the fighting in various parts of the country. The resumption of full scale fighting in 2001, expected north of Kabul, in the northern provinces of Takhur and Kunduz and possibly in the western region, will lead to increased conflict related displacement, and refugees in the course of 2001.

Funding trends for Afghanistan: Overall, there are five main strategic objectives for assistance to Afghanistan:

  1. Alleviation of human suffering.

  2. Protection and advancement of human rights.

  3. Provision of basic social services of health, education, water and sanitation.

  4. Empowerment of Afghans to build sustainable livelihoods.

  5. Return of refugees.

Consolidated appeals for Afghanistan (CAP) each year to mobilize funds for a wide array of assistance programmes within that country. This is the main resource mobilisation  tool to supplement agencies core funding.

In 2001, the aid community has planned for almost $300 million in aid to Afghanistan. Due to the increasing scale of emergency in Afghanistan, the CAP has been revised further from $224 million to $254 million, and will be revised further again.

In 2000, funding for basic social services picked up slightly, while funding for responding to emergencies picked up substantially. It is estimated that by the year 2002, it is probable that donors will continue to support the traditional areas of food aid and mine action, and early  evidence suggests a positive response to health initiatives.

Persistent underfunding of sustainable livelihoods, and particularly of agricultural and rural infrastructure, has meant that much needed advancement in food security has been impeded.

It is understood that an assistance budget of $300 million is modest for a country in such great need as Afghanistan. However, only a peace settlement will make possible major bilateral funding which will allow for major reconstruction and rehabilitation.                                         

Solution to Afghan Crisis Whichever way the the Afghan problem is solved, whether by the neighbouring countries or through the UN an important point that has to be taken into consideration is that Afghanistan remains united and as one nation.

The fighting going on in Afghanistan is due to the abundance of weapons. These weapons along with the gangs plundered the life, property and honour of innocent Afghans. So the first step in bringing peace should be the collection of weapons. Noteworthy, the Pakistan government  has  started the screening procedure of those Afghans staying illegally from the 20th of June. The Pakistan government has also started the collection of unregistered weapons from the various Afghan sections in Pakistan.

To bring peace in Afghanistan, more active role  and time should  be given in persuading and convincing the Taliban to adopt a more flexible attitude towards the people of their own country. The regime set up by the Taliban is a subject of debate throughout the country. According to a survey conducted, many Pakistani people belonging to a liberal, educated, background widely condemn the Taliban for their forceful acts conducted in the name of religion. These critics opine that the Taliban do not know  anything of Islam. They stress that Taliban seem to have dual standards and their forceful acts have proved them to be the most intolerant people in the modern world. They accuse the Taliban of being narrow-minded and self-centred. The students of Darul-Uloom emphasize that the forceful acts of Taliban like ordering people to grow beards, destroy their televisions and computers and mostly music systems are disliked by them.

Moreover, the Afghanistan’s Taliban movement is incapable of representing the country abroad. The Taliban who control two-thirds of the country, had no reason to pretend to represent  Afghanistan on the international scene.

The Taliban should adopt a more flexible and soft attitude towards the people. They should allow the Afghan women to receive education and engage in employment activities. The Taliban should help in the eradication of poverty from their society and provide shelter and peace to the people. The people of Afghanistan should be allowed to select their leaders. The warring Afghan factions should immediately stop fighting. Perhaps this could pave the way for the peaceful settlement of  the anarchy spread in Afghanistan. 

Nearly one million people have been displaced from their villages as a result of their battle between the Taliban and its rivals and the worst drought in three decades. According to the UN, the calamity has engulfed most of the Afghanistan for three successive years and around five million people face the threat of hunger.

More aid should be liberated from the G8 countries for poor Afghans. As a political and economic world force, the G8 countries are required to dispatch urgent aid to the Afghani people.

Source:

by courtesy & © 2001 Globe (Pakistan) & Sobia Nisar

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