Islamabad [Pakistan] : Three years since Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to grant Afghan refugees full citizenship, the commitment remains unfulfilled.
The offer-cum-promise was made on September 18, 2018, at different times, when he was just elected and had ideas born of lack of political experience, reported Al Arabiya Post.
However, since then the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban has created instability in the region, resulting in a great influx of Afghan refugees that has caused more complications.
Once Imran Khan raised expectations, the Afghan populace in Pakistan felt betrayed by Pakistan where, after four decades, they remain as “outsiders” when it comes to civic rights, legal protection and social acceptance. Many young Afghans do not find spouses too as their nationality causes distrust. They are unwanted in Pakistan, reported Al Arabiya Post.
The international community views the Afghan refugees from the human prism. Making out “The Case for Granting Afghan Refugees Full Pakistani Citizenship,” the Centre for Global Development (CGD), a Washington-based global organisation, in March 2020 said the presence of an estimated 1.5 million registered refugees and another one million who are not registered “is an indication of an underlying policy issue which the government of Pakistan is reluctant to recognize.”
It said “The political situation in Afghanistan also could impose international legal obligations upon Pakistan. Article 1(a) (2) of the Convention unequivocally describes a refugee as a person who is in fear of persecution in their home country.”
Seeking to counter objections to granting of citizenship to Afghan refugees, it said, “There are two main arguments which are proposed against the granting of citizenship. First, that Pakistan is already poor and cannot bear the burden of more people. This argument is without any substance as Afghan refugees pour 350 million US dollars into the Pakistani economy annually. This amount is in addition to the annual 150 million US dollars in aid from international donors to Pakistan.
Moreover, Afghan refugees run a significant amount of businesses in Peshawar, Karachi and many parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, creating an increased demand for manufactures as well as providing employment. Their contributions to the construction and waste treatment sectors are also invaluable, reported Al Arabiya Post.
“The second argument relies on the security concerns of the Pakistani state that some Afghan refugees have links to terrorists in Afghanistan and the latter could end up being granted citizenship under the guise of refugees. However, our state fails to consider that not granting citizenship might be ‘counter-productive’ as ethnic slums might serve as fertile grounds for terrorist recruitment. This anxiety is also punishing millions for the crimes of very few people.”
Updating its findings in its latest study of August 25, 2021, issued post-Taliban takeover, the CGD said, “With US Withdrawal, Rights of Afghan Refugees in Pakistan Hang in the Balance.”
The report by Denielle Amparado, Helen Dempster and Imran Khan Laghari said, “With the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, it is likely that the Pakistani government will see new refugee movements. These people are likely to receive a cold welcome. Such movements may also have negative implications for the Afghans already in Pakistan who have been used as a political bargaining chip for decades.”
If Afghans are unwanted in Pakistan, they have nowhere else to seek refuge. The situation is volatile and violence is rampant along the border. Heavy casualties at Spin Boldak, across Pakistan’s Chaman, are going un-reported.
Under these circumstances, Imran Khan’s earlier promise and the current silence, both ring hollow. He seems to have made the misery that the Afghans, which side of the international border they are presently located, a vehicle for popularity at home and a diplomatic weapon abroad, reported Al Arabiya Post.