Azaz Syed: We keep talking about Afghan policy. Among them, there is a good policy, but there is also a critical policy, meaning it is a wrong policy. I criticize it because it will cause damage. I don’t doubt someone’s intentions, but personally, I understand that this policy is not right. It will harm Pakistan, and we will learn a very harsh lesson.
I have some data that I present before viewers. Currently, the government has announced that illegal refugees will be deported. The term “Afghan refugees” was not explicitly mentioned, but it implies Afghan refugees.
In Pakistan, there are four types of Afghan refugees.
The first type consists of those who came during the Soviet Union’s war and were given refuge here.
The second type includes those who have Proof of Registration (POR) cards. During Musharraf’s era, in 2007, the government initiated a program to register Afghan refugees in Pakistan. At that time, there were significant imports of terrorism happening in Pakistan, and this initiative was launched against that backdrop because Afghan refugees were being implicated in these imports. Under the POR, around four million Afghan refugees are registered in Pakistan. This initiative became so well-known that many Afghan refugees who had gone back to Afghanistan returned, thinking that Pakistan might be issuing identity cards.
Collaborating with UNHCR, the Pakistani government undertook the registration of POR holders, and Nadra (National Database and Registration Authority) prepared the data.
In 2016, Afghan leader Mullah Mansoor was killed in a drone strike in Balochistan. Pakistani passports and identity cards were found in his possession. Subsequently, the Minister of Interior, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, initiated the verification process of identity cards in NADRA. It was a very effective process.
In 2017, Pakistan started the implementation of Afghan Registration Card (ARC) under which 890,000 Afghan refugeets were registered.
At number three, there are those seeking political asylum. Generally, Pakistan does not grant asylum to Afghan refugees, but on August 15, 2021, when the Taliban took over Afghanistan, 700,000 to 800,000 individuals came to Pakistan. Most of them are not Pashto speakers. They are residing in various hotels or makeshift places in Islamabad. They have registered themselves with UNHCR. Sharp, a UNHCR partner organization, handles their registration. After registration, these individuals try to seek political asylum in other countries, such as Germany or other European nations. There are 700,000 to 800,000 people in this category. The Chief Commissioner for Afghan Refugees took up the matter with UNHCR, questioning why they are providing asylum here. This process was halted for a while, but now it has resumed. Among them, there are educated individuals, including teachers, doctors, musicians, and people associated with fine arts.
In the fourth category, there are people who have been living in Pakistan since the time of the Soviet Union invasion. They no longer have documents. Their third and fourth generations have been born here, and they have become an integral part of Pakistani society.
Pakistani government announced their expulsion; but these people cannot adjust easily if sent elsewhere. As a result, some individuals who become extremely disillusioned might resort to terrorism or could join armed groups.
What should Pakistan do?
Pakistan should categorize Afghan refugees into two groups: one with documents and the other without documents. Those who are educated, such as doctors or engineers, should be registered and granted citizenship. Similarly, those born here and from multiple generations should also be given citizenship. Include these people in the tax net, which would increase our tax base.
I believe we need to rethink this. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is in power. The Taliban is a predominantly Pashtun group, distinct from non-Pashtun people within Afghanistan, including those from the Northern Alliance.
Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has also reacted to this situation, stating that Pakistan is mistreating Afghan immigrants. He emphasizes that Afghan immigrants are not involved in terrorism in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Caretaker Interior Minister, Sarfraz Bugti, addressed this in a press conference yesterday, stating that out of 24 terrorist attacks, 14 had Afghan refugees involved.
So, in my opinion, it should be examined who these Afghan nationals are and why they are involved. I don’t have research or data, but I believe they are not locals. You know that in 2003 and 2004, when these terrorist attacks started, these were the people from Pakistan who, after 9/11, introduced suicide bombings. I know many of these individuals personally. We need to strengthen our position and formulate a policy that doesn’t harm us. We will also face an international setback due to this policy. You are aware that at the moment, Pakistan is being scrutinized by the IMF, and Pakistan is also being observed by the European Union. All countries and institutions are stipulating that Pakistan should adopt a lenient approach towards Afghan immigrants.
Umar Cheema: Pakistan did not sign the International Refugees Convention, so legally, pressure cannot be exerted on Pakistan in this regard. However, there are matters at the governmental level and matters at the public level. Some people at the public level hold radical views on this matter. I was in a hospital when I saw an Afghan who worked there being told by my friend, “You’re not welcome anymore; you people should go back.” I told my friend that he was wrong because this person might feel distressed. My friend replied, “You don’t know what kind of people they are.” He said when there’s a match between Pakistan and Afghanistan, they support Afghanistan, but in matches between Pakistan and India, they support India. I don’t understand why there is this negative sentiment among the public. Those Afghans residing here should also be considered.
Azaz Syed: If a Pakistani acquires Australian citizenship, then when there’s a match between Pakistan and Australia, whom will they support?
Umar Cheema: If an Afghan citizen supports the Afghan team in a Pak-Afghan match, it’s understandable. But if there’s a Pakistan-India match, and they support India, it bothers the local Pakistanis.
Azaz Syed: It’s possible that this happens; there are many Afghans who grew up in India, so it could be the case.
Umar Cheema: If a Pakistani residing in America doesn’t associate with the US, people there will consider them a foreigner and might say they shouldn’t live there. In my opinion, Afghans living here should improve their behavior in this regard. Instead of locals criticizing them, it should be that local people come out in support of them. We want them to stay here; it benefits us. However, if there’s opposition among the public, it validates the government’s policy.