Pak using Palestine conflict to hide its Afghan deportation barbarism

Pak using Palestine conflict to hide its Afghan deportation barbarism
Afghan children sit along a street in the refugee camp in Karachi on October 26, 2023. (Photo by Rizwan TABASSUM / AFP)

Pakistan’s cruel and callous deportation of innocent Afghan women, children and men is attracting global attention with protests highlighting the crackdown. Hundreds and thousands of poor Afghans are being driven out of Pakistan like cattle with armed soldiers and police keeping a close watch on their movements.

According to the UNHCR, Pakistan is currently hosting 3.7 million Afghan refugees, out of whom 775,000 are without valid documents.

The deportation is ordered by the Pakistan Army and its crony, caretaker government to hide its failure to prevent terrorist attacks from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). With scores of army soldiers, officers and policemen falling victim to terrorist onslaught in the recent months, the army has decided to punish the innocent instead of shoring up its capabilities and leadership.

It was also a convenient excuse for the Generals to hide their failures and refusal to give up their pro-terrorist strategies to punish the innocent Afghans.

The Generals found the Israel-Palestine conflict a convenient event to camouflage their atrocious and inhuman deportation of Afghans from Pakistan which has been their home for the past two decades and more.

The media, by and large, are supporting this atrocious move by playing up the Palestine cause while downplaying the Afghan tragedy. There is little space for the Afghans leaving what was their home for decades, abandoning their homes and cattle and memories. Majority of the Afghans forced to leave are born in Pakistan and hence have constitutional rights. Under Section 4 of the Pakistan Citizenship Act of 1951 “Every person born in Pakistan after the commencement of this Act shall be a citizen of Pakistan by birth …” By these standards, millions of Afghans are in fact Pakistanis by birth. There are over 2.5 million widows among the refugees who had come to Pakistan looking for jobs and safety. It is such a cruel act on the part of the state which is otherwise clamouring for international attention to save Palestinians from the Israeli onslaught.

Events and incidents from the Afghan detention centres are rarely reported. Minor children are separated from their parents and dispatched to distant locations. Women and their children have been forcibly put on buses without their male relatives and sent to Afghanistan where a woman without a male relative is liable to face harassment and punishment.

The refugees face massive corruption at several levels. The army knows about it. Several thousands are paid by those who can afford it to avoid deportation. There are middlemen who can manage to bribe their way through state agencies, including the military. The government staff prevent refugees from meeting their family members, lawyers or other aid givers. Several of the detenus are beaten up by police and rangers for no reason.

Their cries, however, remain unheard either in Pakistan or in the world which is pained at the tragedy unfolding in the Israel and Palestine conflict. Pakistan has cleverly used this to distract the world from the tragedy unfolding in the Afghan-Pakistan border and in detention camps.

But protests are being organised in several parts of the world. In Frankfurt, Pashtun Tahfuz Movement (PTM), an organisation of Pashtuns which had been fighting the Pakistan armed forces for their atrocities against Pashtuns since 2001, organised a protest demanding an end to the crackdown and forced deportation of innocent Afghans.

The PTM pointed out that the authorities have demolished several Afghan private and commercial properties in Islamabad and other cities. Hundreds of private and commercial properties were bulldozed in Bord Bazar of Peshawar. Several hundred Afghans were being tortured and illegally detained in major cities across Pakistan.

The protesters condemned the harassment, inhuman and degrading treatment of Afghan refugees. The PTM had earlier staged a similar protest in other major European countries and in front of the UNHRC at Geneva, Switzerland. The group also sought the global attention on a large-scale protest organised by Pashtuns at Chaman in Balochistan for almost three weeks against Pakistan. Who will save the hapless Afghan refugees from the Pakistan army’s cruelty?

Joe Elhage

Joe Elhage

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