Afghan Refugees in Pakistan: A Source of Conflict in Society and the Need for Integration


Refugees are dislocated from their home countries because of conflict and persecution. When they interact with host societies they bring about changes in the existing system. They not only enrich and influence the way of life of the locals by adding their peculiar cultural norms, cuisine and skills to their ethos and ethics, they can also at times be

a source of conflict. This usually happens when they are not able to or not allowed to integrate into the social fabric of their adopted homeland. The presence of large refugee communities can be a source of threat for a variety of reasons ranging from anachronistic social practices or religious customs or if they are seen to encroach into the limited resources of the local population such as jobs and businesses. Pakistan is a country that has experienced several waves of refugees ever since it became an independent state. The story of Afghan refugees has been slightly different. Welcomed initially with open arms as Muslims brothers in distress after invasions by the Soviet in the last century and the American forces at the beginning of this century, they have now become unwelcome. Over time, the local population has become wary of their prolonged stay and now considers them as a source of growing terrorism and wants them to return to their own country. Some of them have gone back but others have returned when they found survival difficult in their native land.

Given the state of instability in Afghanistan, one cannot be sure if all the Afghan refugees both registered and unregistered would ever return. One can also not rule out a fresh wave of refugees if there is major turbulence or upheaval in Afghanistan. Lately, many refugees from Afghanistan and the Middle East have also gone to Western countries. Although integration is a major issue there, many refugees have adapted quickly to their new homes and become part of the mainstream. The success of integrating refugees into many European and North American countries can be attributed to well-developed national programs to absorb refugees coming from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds and the understanding attitude of the citizens of some of the host countries. In Pakistan there is no sustainable mechanism to integrate and absorb the Afghan refugees.

This paper posits that Government of Pakistan should have a well thought policy to integrate refugees instead of repelling and rejecting them. The country has a lot to gain by capitalizing on the strengths of refugees. Their next generations can become true Pakistanis instead of becoming a burden on the society or threat to the common man by falling prey to violent extremism.

Keywords: Afghan Refugees, integration, conflict.


Migration has been an integral part of human civilization. The mass movement of people across the millennia has resulted in amalgamation of cultures, values and traditions and created diversity in communities. There have been myriad causes of the mass movement of people. At times they’ve fled natural disaster like plague and pestilence; and at other times manmade disasters like foreign attacks and internal repression. The refugees have not always found safety and solace at their destination. Their fate has been dependent to large measure on the response of the host society. Some settlers have settled quickly and seamlessly into their new environment and at other times they have caused conflict, violence and unrest in their new places of residence.

Pakistan is no stranger to refugees. On the eve of independence, 14 August 1947, millions of Muslims, caught on the wrong side of the border poured into new country. For obvious reason they settled down quickly into their promised homeland. At time there was friction at times between the settlers and the new citizens but they were ultimately absorbed into the society. They had no other option because they had left their old home for good for the new country. The experience with the Afghans has been different. It has been experienced that there had been definitely times when the refugees from across the Durand Line had been at odds with the local society. Initially they were no checks on them and they were allowed to roam freely and not necessarily confined to camps. It was after a while

that the government considered it necessary to register them. The huge refugee population influenced the society in various ways, some positive and others definitely negative. Their status also underwent a marked change from brothers fleeing foreign occupation to refugees who had overstayed their welcome.

The movement of Afghans into Pakistan can be analyzed into various phases of exodus from their home country. Their first phase of Afghan migration to Pakistan began in 1978 as Saur Revolution gripped the political landscape of Afghanistan. They kept coming in spurts in 1992, 1996 and quite significantly after 2001. Notwithstanding the obvious push factors in the political history of the Afghanistan, it is safe to assume that the movement across border never fully ceased, especially after 1979 (Tober, 2007). Pakistan’s accommodating stance towards the Afghan refugees mutated over time. At first welcome, they were later shunned and encouraged to go back. The first wave of refugees in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion in December 1979 rose to the all-time of five million. The

settlement of these refugees was a massive exercise and was sometime beyond the capabilities of Pakistan with its limited resources. As time went by they were blamed for various ills that now plague the Pakistani society such as drugs, arms trafficking, militancy and most alarmingly terrorism. It was perhaps for this reason and there may have been others that it was decided that the Afghans would not be given permanent residence in Pakistan. They had to go back from where they had come and with this in mind, the Government of Pakistan launched various repatriation processes along with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (Margesson, 2007).

The issue of the Afghan refugees has become a lost cause. The international community has largely forgotten them. The donor agencies don’t even want to talk about them. Even the Afghan government is only peripherally interested in repatriating them. They have enough of their own problems. The world is now engaged in handling other more urgent refugee crises resulting from wars and violence in Middle East. This new wave of immigration has not only

fallen out in the neighboring countries but has spread as far as Europe. These refugees from Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq have added yet another miserable chapter in human history. Perhaps less glamorous has been the plight of Rohingya people, fleeing to Bangladesh to escape persecution in their native Myanmar. While refugee crises have erupted all over the world and millions of people have been uprooted and dispossessed, it is a sad fact that the Afghan refugee is also bereft of a sense of peace, safety and security after three decades. The threat of repatriation to a country far from unstable continues to hang like the sword of Damocles over his neck. The governments of the

host countries i.e. Iran and Pakistan are now fatigued and in the case of the latter battered and bruised because of terrorism that they blame sometime unfairly on the Afghan living in their midst. They feel justified in enforcing stringent policies towards the Afghans refugee because of what they consider threats to their national security and interest (Ignatiev, 2014-2015).

The propensity of conflict to erupt in any part of the world and the consequential unprecedented human suffering around the globe makes the remedial measures essential for international peace and stability. It is with this in mind that it is posited in this paper that the Government of Pakistan should revise it policy towards the Afghan Refugees, keeping in mind its own national security concerns. It is suggested that the revised stance towards the Afghan refugees must be based on the accepted norms of humanity and should incorporate the wishes of the Afghans in Pakistan. It needs to be stressed here that the principle of non-refoulement in international law forbids the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country, where they are liable to be subjected to persecution (Learning to Live Together, 2017). Also one needs to be kept in mind that it should be kept in view that instability in Afghanistan should be viewed in the diminished value of human life in that country (Laber & Rubin, 1984). In short two to three generations of Afghans born in Pakistan, who consider it their homeland should not be forcefully repatriated to a country they hardly know. Pakistan needs to deal with Afghans firmly but humanely and for this it needs to

formulate a comprehensive policy formulated on the basis of consistency, pragmatism, sustainability and a futuristic approach.

To this end, this paper constructs the genealogy of the Afghan migration into Pakistan post-1979 and links the narrative to contemporary times. It also highlights the policies of the Government of Pakistan or the lack of these towards Afghan refugees. Evidence suggests that the Government’s handling of Afghan refugees has been ad hoc at best. There is a need to adopt a fresh approach in handling Afghan refugee instead of forcibly pushing them back. They should be settled in the country in a manner that they become law abiding and responsible citizens, instead of a marginalized community that does not enjoy equal rights in the country.


In order to gain deeper insights into the policies and attitudes towards Afghan refugees and formulate policy recommendations, the paper has adopted a case study design. Furthermore, to unfold the complex dynamics of the selected case, the research has embraced qualitative techniques as a strategy of inquiry. The paper draws its data and arguments primarily from secondary sources, which help to build the narrative of Pakistan towards the Afghan refugees. Furthermore, data has been extracted from UNHCR,

Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) and other national and international bodies associated with the settlement, integration and repatriation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

The aim of the paper is to suggest a revision of the policy towards the Afghans in Pakistan, barring political agendas and based on the ethos of humanitarianism that was evoked when Pakistan first welcomed its brothers in distress in 1979. However, the revised policy needs to keep in view the security issues Pakistan faces and stress on constructive engagement with Afghanistan to settle people across the Pak-Afghan border.

Afghan Refugees and Pakistan

In contemporary times, the Afghan population represents the world’s second largest refugee group, following Syrians. According to estimation, one in every four Afghans has been a refugee (Ruiz, 2002). Since the political turmoil caused by the Saur Revolution in 1978, the Afghan refugee crisis has become exacerbated with Afghans seeking refuge in around 70 countries with 95 percent of them settling in Pakistan and Iran (UNHCR, 2015-2016). The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan has always been characterized as porous, but the changes in the political landscape since 1978 have led to mass movement of people from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

The Soviet Invasion, in 1979, that followed the Saur Revolution led to millions of Afghanis settling in Pakistan (Putz, 2015). The first document estimation during the time of the invasion brings the figure close to six million (Ruiz, 2002). Despite being a non-signatory nation to the Geneva Convention of Refugees, Pakistan welcomed its brothers in distress evoking the Islamic discourse and become the second largest refugee hosting nation in the world (Jenner, 2015). The greatest surge in the movement of people from Afghanistan to Pakistan was seen during the early 1980s. In 1981, 1.5 million Afghan refugees were reported to have entered Pakistan and by 1986 the figure had risen to 5 million (UNHCR,

2015-2016). The Afghan migration to Pakistan following the Soviet invasion can be characterized as the first phase of the refugee inflow. They settled along the Pak-Afghan border and integrated into the social fabric of Pakistan due to the similitude between the Pashtun cultures across the borders.

The inflow of Afghan refugees during the first phase was triggered when the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) had deposed and assassinated President Sardar Muhammad Daud Khan. Daud was a member of the Mohammadzai clan of the Barakzai family of the Durrani tribe that had ruled Afghanistan since 1826. He was the brother-in-law of King Zahir Shah, whom he had unseated but allowed to flee into comfortable exile in Rome in July 1973. He had declared Afghanistan a republic and installed himself the President. Daud had championed the cause of Pashtunistan, while he was a Minister

in Zahir Shah’s government pitching irredentist claims on the bordering Pashtun areas in Pakistan but after becoming the President he tried to mend fences with the neighboring country. He also made a goodwill visit to show his honest intent in developing good friendly relations. Daud was perhaps successful in his foreign policy but he could not control his internal enemies. He was removed and executed by the communists led by Noor Muhammad Taraki in December 1979. Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the last ambassador of the Taliban regime in Islamabad wrote in his book My Days with the Taliban that his family came to Balochistan after the Afghan Communists took over the reins of the government in Kabul. As a young boy, he first lived in Nushki and then in a camp in Panjpai in 1978 and

1979 (Zaeef, 2010). The refugees came into Pakistan in droves after the Soviet tanks rolled into Kabul on Christmas day in 1979 ostensibly on the call of the Afghan government. After that the Afghans kept coming and no one stopped or blocked their entry into Pakistan.

The Geneva Accords of 1988 led to the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and it was expected that the refugees would return to their country as soon as the situation stabilized. This, however, did not happen. Although the embattled Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah actually appealed to the 5 million Afghan refugees residing outside the country to return home and rebuild the war-torn country and but the Afghan refugees did not consider his appeal seriously. Afghanistan was in the throes of a civil war and the conditions there far from certain (Tempest, 1988). In 1992, Najibullah government fell and the mujahidin took control of Afghanistan but infighting amongst warring factions only complicated issues. This led to the rise of the Taliban in 1996 which reversed the repatriation process by the UNHCR and more refugees poured into Pakistan and Iran. The political turmoil of 1992 and 1996 triggered the second and third waves of the refugee movements into Pakistan.

The events of 9/11 and the alleged involvement of the Taliban government in giving shelter to the Al Qaeda cohorts, who were blamed for bombing the World Trade Center became the causus belli for the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. After US forces were able to evict the Taliban and install a government of their choice in Kabul, the repatriation process was revived but the migration to Pakistan could not be staunched because of the porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan (Akhtar, 2008). While many Afghan refugees were repatriated the continued turmoil in the country not stop them from returning to Pakistan. This marked the fourth significant wave of Afghan refugee movement into Pakistan. It is a sad fact that despite the UNHCR-led repatriation process, 160000 Afghans fled to Pakistan in 2011to escape persecution in Afghanistan (Hiegemann, 2015).

The total number of Afghans residing in Pakistan has never been accurately determined because no regulation measures have been in place to determine between registered and unregistered refugees. Some

Afghans have been successful in getting Pakistani citizenship through illegal means and escape official dragnet too identify and repatriate Afghan refugees. For many who had not been involved in any illicit activity and who haven’t tried to get their papers through shady means life has been difficult. For many, particularly those born in Pakistan, it is the only country they have known as their home. A study in 2014 determined that the 51 percent of the Afghan refugee population in Pakistan is below 18 years of age and most of them have been born here (Khan, 2014). They have contributed to the local economy in a positive manner. Afghan refugees has significantly expanded the local job market and taken over businesses in the carpet, transport and gemstone trade and make up for 70 percent of the work force in carpet weaving in

the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) (Razzaq, 2017).

A visible change in attitude towards the Afghan refugees was experienced in Pakistan at the official and local levels in the 1990s. This was because the economy, infrastructure and environment was showing signs of stress. The Afghan refugees were now building their own ghettos. Many refugee villages had been established on private lands in Pakistan.  Property disputes were reported over these refugee villages. There was an increase in crime and incidents of terrorism. All indicators put the blame on Afghans. (Chattha, 2013). The Afghan refugees were also blamed for the surge in drug use in Pakistan. Estimates of drug users was recorded around 50,000 in 1980s (Yusuf, 2012). This number grew significantly to 8.1 million in 2011 (Raza, 2011). Since Afghanistan is the world’s largest exporter of opium, it was obvious to put the blame on Afghan refugees.

The blame on Afghan refugees as the root cause of conflict in the Pakistani society is possibly exaggerated. Some crimes, violent activities and anti-state propagandas have been traced back to the Afghan refugees but to hold them accountable for that is wrong in the society and forcibly to send them back is grossly unfair. It is a matter of fact that the Directorate of Persecution in KPK holds that only 1 percent of Afghans have been found guilty of carrying out major crimes in the province (Khan I. , 2017). Therefore, to send them back because of imaginary crimes and that violates their dignity is creating enemies among them.

Government of Pakistan’s Policy

Afghan refugees primarily came to KPK, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan and the bulk of them were settled along the Pashtun Belt. Refugee camps were established by the Pakistani Chief Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees (CCAR) and a division of SAFRON in

collaboration with UNHCR. According to UNHCR, 62 percent of the refugee camps were located in KPK and FATA, whereas 20 percent of the camps were established in Balochistan (UNHCR, 2015-2016). Government of Pakistan engaged itself in the basic relief and rehabilitation of the refugees including

provision of food, medical aid and education. The spirit of hospitality displayed by the government and the people stemmed from the religious and cultural norms of brotherhood and human values. The long term settlement of refugees was left to UN Refugee Agency and other aid agencies such as the World Food Program (WFP) (Rizvi, 1984). The Government did not go beyond that and did not craft a

comprehensive policy for the settlement of the Afghan refugees. It was always thought that they would go back. When would that happen was neither a pressing concern nor was anyone very keen to send them back immediately.

The Government it seemed was not unduly perturbed by the free movement of Afghan refugees within country. Those who chose to stay in the camps were registered. Others were not. The refugees were allowed to hold jobs, rent properties and acquire education. Most of the refugees who came to Pakistan in the first phase (1979-88) during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan were treated at par with Pakistani citizens. Absolutely no differentiation was made. The government actually loosened the laws for the Afghans and allowed these unregistered foreigners a place in the job markets (Chattha, 2013). With time the Afghan refugees spread to distant parts of the country. Moving to Islamabad and Punjab was no problem, they actually moved to places like Sindh and Gilgit-Baltistan. The spread of refugee footprint can be gauged by the fact that 67 percent of their population found places to live in the urban and rural centers of the country while only 33 percent remained in the 54 refugee camps established for them (UNHCR, 2015-2016).

After the Soviet forces withdrew across the Amu River in 1989, the UNHCR actually helped repatriate

1.4 to 1.5 million Afghan refugees back to their country in the early 1990s. However things remained turbulent and although a certain degree of stability returned after the Taliban assumed power in 1996, Afghan refugees continued to move into Pakistan (Hiegemann, 2015). The warmth that had been exhibited towards the Afghan refugees by the government and the public began to change. The shift in attitude towards the Afghan refugees was directly linked to the decrease in the international humanitarian funding during the 1990s. It was difficult for the Government of Pakistan to singlehandedly share the burden of the Afghan refugees. In order to encourage voluntary repatriation in early 1990s, UNHCR had launched an encashment program. This was the time that the Government of Pakistan also began to

encourage voluntary repatriation. As a result the Afghan refugees entering Pakistan after in the mid-1990s found themselves unwelcome or less welcome. In 1995, Pakistan starting labeling Afghans entering Pakistan as economic migrants and refused to give them refugee status which was given to the earlier refugees (Turton & Marsden, 2002). In 1995, UNHCR actually stopped registering the refugees entering Pakistan and the overall repatriation process slowed down as in 1996. As only 120,000 refugees were repatriated (Grare & Maley, 2011).

The beginning of the 21st century did not alter the attitude of the international community towards the Afghan refugees and the burden on the Government of Pakistan kept increasing with no decrease in the movement of Afghans into Pakistan. The resources were fast depleting and the government did not have funds to look after the Afghans still coming into the country. Unfortunately for the Afghans the conditions in their country did not improve. The US invasion of Afghanistan sent more Afghans reeling into Pakistan, however after a new government replacing the Taliban had been installed in Kabul fresh measures were taken to repatriate the Afghan refugees. The process of repatriation begun as the result of

the Tripartite Commission in 2002 did see some reverse flow back into Afghanistan. By 2015, 3.8 million refugees had returned to Afghanistan with the continued assistance of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR, Afghanistan, Pakistan and UNHCR Agree on Adopting New Approaches to assist the voluntary return of Afghans from Pakistan, 2015) (Noor, 2006).

The attempts by the Government of Pakistan to regulate and monitor the Afghan refugees led to the survey in 2005 to estimate the Afghans residing in the country. In 2006, 2.1 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan were registered and given Proof of Registration (PoR) cards by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) with the help from UNHCR (Baloch, 2014). These registered individuals were recognized as Afghan citizens living in Pakistan and were given the relaxation to live and work here till December 2009 (ibid). Pakistan also took the measures to close the refugee camps it had established along its Pashtun Belt, starting from FATA. One reason for closing these camps was because the refugees living in these were blamed for harboring militants and terrorists amongst them. Their presence in the camps was considered a security risk (Pakistan ‘to close refugee camps’, 2005). The closing of refugee camps was supported by UNHCR as the rising security issues were proving to be

detrimental to humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, the refugees in these camps were given the choice to relocate to government designed camps in Dir and Chitral or be repatriated to Afghanistan with a

UNHCR assistance of US$100 per individual (Safri, 2011). Most of them refused to relocate as the destination settlements lacked basic facilities. Due to persisting instability in Afghanistan the refugees were allowed to stay back beyond 2009 and uptil December, 2012.

In 2010 the government of Pakistan adopted the Afghan Management and Repatriation Strategy (AMRS) in 2010 to address the issues associated with the Afghan refugee population. The worsening of situation in Afghanistan led to the extension of the stay till June, 2013. A more comprehensive policy for the Afghan refugees was adopted in July, 2013, which included the provisions on extension of the PoR cards and the Tripartite Agreement on Voluntary Repatriation till December, 2013. The National Policy on Afghan Refugees was in accordance with the Solutions Strategy for the Afghan Refugees (SSAR). The SSAR encompasses voluntary repatriation, reintegration of the Afghans Refugees into Afghanistan and

assistance to refugee host communities. Government of Pakistan has tried its best to implement the provisions of these policies; however, the stay for the Afghan refugees has been extended time again, first to March 2017 and then to December 2017 (Haq, 2017).

The wave of militancy and terrorism with the attack on Army Public School, Peshawar in December

2014. As a result there were nation-wide call for their repatriation. The attack was not carried out by Afghan refugees but it had been planned and coordinated in Afghanistan. The consequent National Action Plan (NAP) delineated Pakistan’s strategy in dealing with the illegal Afghans with proven criminal records. Thousands of unregistered Afghans were arrested under the NAP and deported to Afghanistan without legal formalities (Ali, 2016). This was a ham handed approach. Matters became worse because of friction between the Ministry of Interior and SAFRON. This has been a major obstacle in dealing with the illegal Afghans in Pakistan in a fair manner.

The UNHCR has been carrying out repatriation and has established two repatriation centers with the support from European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department have been established at Azakhel and Chamkani in Peshawar (Kakakhel, 2016). However, the policies promulgated by the Government of Pakistan are severely constrained by certain factors which include its relations with the Government in Afghanistan and the instable internal situation in that country. What happens to the Afghan refugees after December 2017 can anybody’s guess but one thing is sure that many of them would not like to go back because for the simple reason that life is not safe there. Sending them against their wishes would against international norms. This is indeed a dilemma for the Government of Pakistan.


The issue needs careful consideration and resolution. Government of Pakistan needs to involve all stakeholders in resolving the issue of the Afghan refugees. It not only needs to evolve a humane repatriation policy, it needs to seriously consider settling some of them in Pakistan. The repatriation program should not be rigid. It should follow a flexible timeframe to allow for a sustainable resettlement and reintegration policy for the refugees returning to Afghanistan. The governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan should actually work on it together without rancor or mutual suspicions.

Pakistan also needs to revive the issue of the Afghan refugees at the international fora and those consortia actively involved in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The Afghan refugee has become a forgotten chapter in human history. He needs to be resettled in a humane fashion instead of being held in suspicion forever in Pakistan and pushed back into Afghanistan against his wishes.  It needs to adopt a joint strategy for the Afghan refugees in consultation with the Afghan and Iranian governments and the UNHCR. The

political leaders within the country should also consider this issue seriously and make it part of their election manifesto. They should also understand the problems of this neglected and misunderstood community and make plans for the betterment. The policy planners in the government should actually funds for their resettlement in the annual federal and provincial budgets.

Those Afghan who have become part of the job market should be granted work visas. As mentioned earlier many of them are gainfully employed in businesses such as carpet weaving, gemstone and transport business. Many of them are running hotels and are owners of bakeries and tandoors (ovens). Afghan cuisine is very popular and the Afghan naan (bread) is now a culinary delight. Returning these

people against their wishes would be a cultural loss. These people are actually part of Pakistan’s diversity.

Pakistan seriously needs to revise its policy related to the registration of Afghan refugees. It needs to grant amnesty to unregistered refugees so that they can come forward and register themselves. The documentation will aid in monitoring them and also provide them legal cover so that they are not unnecessarily harassed by the police and other government agencies.

Pakistan needs to make alteration to its citizenship laws for the Afghan refugees. The government needs to seriously examine the models prevalent in European countries where refugees have been granted legal resident status leading to citizenship after they have been able to prove their claims as genuine refugees. It is a fact that the refugees who have taken up residence in Pakistan since 1979 have two to three generations born here. Most of them born here consider Pakistan their home. They know little about their country of origin and would be foreigners there if they are sent back to a place, which the authorities consider their home. The applications for citizenship should not be accepted arbitrarily and should be confirmed after strict and serious vetting. Data actually suggests that 74 percent of the refugees have been born in Pakistan (Khan A. , 2017). It is ruthless to uproot their lives and forcefully send them to Afghanistan. It will only inculcate feelings of animosity towards Pakistan. Therefore, Afghan refugees which were born in Pakistan have no criminal record and speak the native language or a married to Pakistani naturalized citizens should gain the Pakistani citizenship.

The forceful repatriation of Afghan Refugees will actually lay waste the investment in hosting these people as guests. The effort of the last three decades would go down the drain. Therefore, Pakistan needs to make a policy in which a law abiding and decent hardworking Afghan refugee should not be equated with a terrorist. The forceful repatriation of Afghans and the harsh treatment of the refugees by the law enforcement agencies in Pakistan will only create a negative image of country that was once hailed as the country that was most hospitable to Afghan refugees.

Voluntary repatriation will not become a reality unless the conditions in Afghanistan have been stabilized and relative peace has been achieved. In this view, Pakistan along with foreign aid agencies and the neighbors of Afghanistan need to work in tandem to establish housing settlements for the Afghans wanting to return to Afghanistan in relatively safer regions within Afghanistan. The individuals should also be provided with basic life facilities such as education, health facilities, food and security.

The underlying reason for the unhampered flow of refugees since 1979 has been the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. With the erection of the border fence it is hoped that this unchecked movement into Pakistan without legal documents would end or would at least considerably slow down. Border management actually needs cooperation between the two countries and without a sincere effort this may not happen. Any how it is in the interest of the two countries that this mechanism works and terrorist incidents and illicit activities on both sides are reduced and stopped.

The increasing circulation of a negative discourse related to the Afghan refugees in Pakistan has created a disdainful attitude in the common man for them. In order to bridge this increasing gap, leaders of the Afghan refugee community need to raise their which can reach the common public and evoke the sentiments of similitude. Such measure would also increase integration on ethnic and cultural lines with the citizens of Pakistan and the Afghan refugees. The stigmatization of all Afghan refugees for being involved in anti-state and illicit activities needs to be countered by creating a favorable environment. This can be done by carefully absorbing and assimilating them in a society that is already multicultural and diverse.


The solution proposed by the UNHCR for the Afghan refugees encompasses voluntary repatriation into the country of origin, integration into the host country or resettlement into a third country (Safri, 2011). However, these solutions have been pursued keeping in mind that the mass movement of people stops, which has not been the case with the Afghan refugees. The most pertinent issue with Afghan refugees is that unregistered refugees cannot be expected to produce legal documents to justify their stay in Pakistan when they have been in the country for more than three decades without being registered.

Pakistan needs to revert to spirit of friendliness towards the Afghan refugees, which it exhibited post-

1979. It needs to have a comprehensive policy to address the complex issues pertaining to the Afghan refugees. There are people in the Government of Pakistan, who have the experience spanning three decades in rehabilitating and settling Afghan refugees and therefore have the expertise to make such a policy.

Unfortunately the Afghan refugee has become a forgotten lot. They have not only been forgotten by the world and they have been forsaken by their own government. Pakistan should not be cruel or inhumane in dealing with them. They are human beings and they have suffered tremendously from foreign invasions and civil wars in their country. They need sympathy and respect. They need assimilation and integration and not rejection or repulsion. The Afghans in Pakistan should be given the right to choose for

themselves. They should be allowed refuge if they wish to prolong their stay in Pakistan and should not

be forcefully repatriated. The Government and the people of Pakistan should not let go the basic norms of humanity and sympathy for their brothers in need and not lump all of them together as terrorists.


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