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THE DILEMMA OF AFGHAN DIASPORA IN PAKISTAN:

A SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE
By Dr. Samia Raheel Qazi, PhD, University of Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan
Director Foreign Affairs, Jamaat e Islami Women Wing, Pakistan
Member, Council of Islamic Ideology, Govt. of Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Member National Assembly of Islamic Republic of Pakistan (2002-2007)

On the occasion of ICAPP special conference on Migration and Refugees, I take the
opportunity to express my delight at having been honored to participate in this august house.
It is indeed a rare privilege to address such a distinguished audience, so I wish to thank all the
organizers, especially the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) of Turkey, for bringing
together this array of intellectuals, for reflecting upon the grave situation of displaced persons
and refugees across the globe. Apart from having political affiliations with the host country, I
must declare that my personal affiliations are much deeper, which I have inherited from my
father, Qazi Hussain Ahmad(marhoom), and the party that I represent, namely Jamaat e
Islami, the single largest political party, that spreads beyond national borders, and is
functioning according to democratic norms all across the globe, and has always maintained
close ties with the AK Parti since its inception, and so I convey the best of wishes for its
continuing success. This is a highly commendable initiative, and I hope that we are able to
achieve the proposed outcomes during the sessions that follow.

The fast changing world of today has turned us all into a Global Citizenry of the
Transformation Age. War on terror has perpetually radicalized the dimensions of human
rights and Democracy per se. A major trust deficit has been invoked amongst local and
international stakeholders; due to the ever-increasing observations of the most heinous crimes
against humanity being freely committed by the so-called biggest democracies of the world
and their compradors. There seem to simultaneously prevail two different sets of laws; one
for the commoners, and another for the elites.

Effects trickling down into our own society are now becoming evident. I would like to shed
light on the situation in Pakistan, the country that I come from, as there are many lessons to
be learnt from the issue of refugees and displaced persons which the country has
accomodated over the years, with special focus on the Afghan diaspora. Although Pakistan is
host to thousands of Kashmiri Refugees as well, but their issue needs separate individual

attention, and will therefore not be discussed in this paper. Over the decades, Pakistan has
undergone the transformation into a multi-polar society, with vast extremities. As friction
between opposing groups increases with each passing day, it is thus, the need of the hour to
create bridges between these poles. Intellectuals from all walks of life, varied backgrounds
and mindsets must forego their personal biases, come forth collectively; not to serve any
status quo or ruling elite, but for the very survival of individuals and communities having
different perspectives. We must realize that the only true salvation of the humankind lies in
constructing the narrative of Peaceful Co-existence.

It is now an established fact how the global ruling elites have wreaked havoc on human
civilization through waging wars. The innumerable casualties and loss of lives have brought
the human race at the brink of annihilation. The survivors are not any better off than those
who are dead. Out of them the worst sufferers are probably those that are made homeless,
who bear the burden of unhealed wounds; psychological and emotional, more than physical,
for the rest of their lives. The torment is even passed on through the generations.

According to UN statistics, the number of displaced persons worldwide has reached a


shocking 60 Million, the highest since World War 2, and this may prove to be the biggest
Global crisis at hand, with the passage of time, if not dealt with as a topmost priority.
Refugee being defined as a person who is forced to leave his country of origin/nationality,
who cannot return due to fear of persecution.
Sociologists have been warning but to no avail; that any problem that is left unresolved over
a long period of time is bound to develop into a crisis. And Pakistan is now beginning to face
the brunt of this Afghan refugee crisis, left unresolved over decades now. Looking back in
time, the RussiaAfghan war that started in late 1979 and continued for a bitter 9 long years,
resulted in the expulsion of Afghan people to the neighbouring countries. Due to this war
which ultimately resulted in political unrest, mass arrests, executions, civil war and human
rights violations; around 3 -5 Million Afghan refugees escaped to Pakistan only (exact
figures are unavailable). According to UNHCR, out of these only 1.6 M are registered, while
the remaining are said to be documented. It is estimated that 50% of these refugees are under
the age of 18 years. Some are said to have returned to their homes, but no exact authentic
figures are available to support this claim. Initially they were settled in Refugee camps along
the Pak-Afghan border areas of KPK and Balochistan, but with the passage of time, they
became dispersed nationwide.

For the sake of a deeper understanding, the Afghan Diaspora may be categorized as follows:

(1) Those "who came from politically prominent and wealthy families with personal and
business assets outside Afghanistan;
(2) A small group who arrived with assets that they could bring with them such as trucks, cars
and limited funds and who have done relatively well in Pakistan integrating into the new
society and engaging successfully in commerce;
(3) Those refugees who came from the ranks of the well-educated and include professionals
such as doctors, engineers and teachers;
(4) Refugees who escaped with household goods and herds of sheep, cattle and yaks but for
the most part must be helped to maintain themselves;
(5) The fifth and the largest group constituting about 60 per cent of the refugees are ordinary
Afghans, mostly illiterate, who arrived with nothing and are largely dependent on Pakistan
and International efforts for sustenance."
Then there is the issue of the second and third generation of refugees as well, that needs to be
taken into consideration. Even though they have been born and raised in Pakistan, some
having lived here for more than 30 years, their legal status is still not clearly defined and
therefore they are suffering from an identity crisis as well as other problems.
Even at a glance, it may be observed that the foremost challenge faced by the Afghan
diaspora is that of having become a marginalised community. Refugee camps, initially set
up, may be comparable with concentration camps or confinement camps as a Protractive
Research into the Sociological and Psychological outcomes has never been conducted. This
lockdown made these camps Breeding Grounds for Negative and Criminal elements of
society. According to some analysts, the setting up of these refugee camps seems to serve the
purpose of the governments that host them more than the refugees themselves, as they are
able to collect heavy funds in their names, from both the national as well as the international
community. But, the toll this would take on the nation in the long term is never taken into
consideration. Having spent long years in refugee camps and no skills to survive upon, being
mostly illiterate with deep-rooted language and social barriers, a majority of these people
have remained economically dependent for decades at end. As a consequence, this
dependency as well as extreme poverty, have given rise to criminal elements that have now
strengthened into a group of mafia. This has led to marked increase in overall crime rate;
abductions for ransom, cross-border smuggling, human and drug trafficking, violence,
sectarianism, extremism and terrorism in Pakistan.
Pakistan already has its own sets of internal and external problems to deal with. Prolonged
economic disparities, social disparities and ethnic disparities have turned into serious threats
now, resulting in unrest and violence. However, it may be noted that our policies are more
Reactive rather than Proactive or Pre-empted, to date.

National stakeholders need to deeply research the Afghan refugee crisis whilst taking into
consideration the Poverty-Radicalisation Nexus, if they are to find a solution to the
problem. It is another warning sign that the Pak-Afghan relations have seen a major shift,
from good to worse, due to our failure in Foreign Diplomacy. Alongwith taking steps for the
expeditious repatriation of the Afghan diaspora, social space must also be created for them
within our own country.
SUGGESTED SOLUTIONS:
In-depth research needs to be conducted on four levels:

1. DOMESTIC VULNERABILITY:
-

Governance Issues

Political Instability

Economic Instability

Extremism

2. STATE TO STATE RELATIONS:


-

Foreign Policy

Foreign Diplomacy
3. REGIONAL CO-OPERATION:

Economic Corridor

Joint ventures

Trade Route

Conflict resolution
4. GLOBAL POWER PLAY

Cold War legacy

Emergence of China & India as potential super economies

US and India relations

Post 9/11 context

Peaceful Dialogues must be engaged into, including representation from all


stakeholders, for the sake of sustainable solutions.
-

Fighting terror with terror will only lead in the production of More Terror.

Addressing extremism through extremism will only result in creating More


Extremism.

There is a pressing need to re-write our National and Global Narratives.

MANUFACTURING OF NARRATIVES WITHOUT TAKING THE


FAULTLINES INTO CONSIDERATION WILL ULTIMATELY LEAD TO
THE COLLAPSE OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION.

REHABILITATION OF AFGHAN REFUGEES.

PROVISION OF LEGAL STATUS FOR AFGHAN DIASPORA.

SOCIAL INTEGRATION OF ALL COMMUNITIES LIVING IN


PAKISTAN.
We must understand that, EVEN IF THERE IS NO WAR, IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT
THERE IS PEACE. We need to create space for social integration. As enjoined upon us
in Islam, we must spread the understanding of the two categories of our relations with the
humankind; either they are our brothers in faith or they are our brothers in humanity.
In the end I present a translated verse that expresses the gravity of this situation that has the
potential to become a crisis at a later stage; it sheds light on what the future may hold for us,
not just in Pakistan, but across the globe, God forbid, if we continue to turn a blind eye
towards the problem:

Why do you now weep that the children have abandoned their abodes.
Is it not the fate of the withered leaves to fall?

Why did you take away the shelter of their homes?


Alas! The terrorised were bound to turn into terrorists.

I end with Salam; Peace to all.