Protests by Pashtuns irrespective of nationality against unilateral and forced eviction of Afghan refugees have gone global even as Pakistan divides its society on ethnic lines.
Demonstrations by Pashtun groups before Pakistan’s missions abroad do not get much traction in the media which is preoccupied with the ongoing Gaza and Ukraine conflicts, but some parts of media are highlighting the anguish of the departing refugees who feel cheated out of their homes and hearths that they had painstakingly built over the years of living in Pakistan.
The Pashtun groups are utilising the freedom in countries that have sheltered them for long to underline the inhuman treatment and have urged the United Nations and the global community to intervene. The latest to join is the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) in Germany. It organised a protest demonstration in front of the Consulate General of Pakistan in Frankfurt to denounce the brutal crackdown against Afghan refugees by the Pakistani regime.
With slogans and placards titled “Stop crackdown” and “forced deportation” of Afghan refugees from Pakistan”, the protestors denounced “harassments, inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary detention and torture” of Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
In Vienna, Austria, the Afghan diaspora protested Pakistan’s deportation of Afghan refugees to Taliban-controlled areas. The protesters accused Pakistan of interference, emphasized the hardships faced by returning refugees in winter, and highlighted the irony of Pakistan’s prime minister, once a refugee, overseeing policies affecting Afghan refugees. The gathering sought global attention and solidarity against refugee mistreatment, advocating for a more compassionate approach.
The protestors expressed anguish at the Pakistan Government’s notification to deport foreigners and demolition by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) of several Afghan private and commercial properties in Islamabad although the majority of residents had the Permit of Residence (PoR) cards and residing there legally. Hundreds of private and commercial properties of Afghans were demolished in Peshawar’s Board Bazar. “All these Afghan nationals who could not pay bribes as demanded by local police were later deported to Afghanistan,” speakers at the protest alleged.
The Pakistani authorities have targeted the PTM which organised protests in all major European countries and in front of the UNHRC headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Thousands of Pashtuns have been holding a sit-in protest at Chaman in Balochistan. Noorullah Tareen, PTM’s Coordinator in Karachi, was arrested by personnel of the secret services and police without any warrant from the court. Dr. Mushtaq, PTM’s Peshawar Coordinator, was arrested on his way to the Peshawar Press Club on October 16.
The PTM has appealed to the international community, particularly France, the EU, the UK and the US, besides global rights bodies including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. It urged the EU to reconsider the GSP+ status of Pakistan which is coming to an end in December 2023 and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international financial institutions to stop funding Pakistan which is responsible for human rights violations.
The PTM urged the world community to address the larger issue of correcting the historical injustice done to the Pashtun nation by re-visiting the Durand Line which is “one of the main causes of instability and insecurity in Afghanistan and the whole region.”
Meanwhile, the Taliban regime in Kabul has alleged that Pakistan was wrongly using terrorism, its “internal problem”, as a pretext for evicting the civilian population. Visiting Islamabad, Acting Commerce Minister of Afghanistan Haji Nooruddin Azizi sought reparation for the properties and businesses that the Afghans had been forced to leave behind in Pakistan.
Pakistani media reports indicate that Pakistan’s Caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani sidestepped the refugees’ issue and instead spoke of improving trade ties.
Besides insisting that it is following international norms while evicting 1.7 million Afghans who were ‘unregistered’, Pakistan has insinuated that these refugees have been responsible for terror attacks. Analysts in Pakistan, as elsewhere, have doubted this, stating that unarmed civilians, including women and children, were being punished for acts of terrorism by groups that were earlier nurtured by the Pakistani establishment but have since turned rogue.
Pakistan watchers have surmised that the Pakistan Army which is the core of this establishment is utilising the caretaker government now in office to rid itself of the Afghan refugees while political parties are busy preparing for the national elections, likely to be held next February. In doing this, Pakistan is punishing Kabul’s Taliban regime it nurtured for many years but has now refused to play the ball by evicting fighters of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Author chooses a single pseudonym. Shinwari is a freelance journalist based in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Note: The contents of the article are of sole responsibility of the author. Afghan Diaspora Network will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the articles.