Thousands of Afghan refugees have had to leave Pakistan in the last year owing to deteriorating relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Afghan refugees are returning to their home country after decades following breakdown in Afghanistan’s relationship with Pakistan. Last year, close to 600,000 Afghan refugees had to pack up and leave for Afghanistan and most of them had been living in Pakistan for decades. Many of these refugees have little to no contact in their home country to help them settle in the war-torn country. Hafiz Ahmad Miakhel, an adviser at the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations said,
The refugees are a humanitarian issues and should not be linked to politics. But unfortunately sometimes our countrymen become the victims of political issues.
While ties between the two countries had been troubled for quite some time, the Afghan refugees took the heat for the collapsed effort to start peace talks with the Taliban in early 2016. Kabul blames Pakistan for nurturing Taliban and Islamabad, while denying the accusations, holds Afghanistan responsible for terror attacks on Pakistani soil.
In June of 2016, Pakistan established strict controls at Torkham border in an effort to curb militants from crossing the border. Officials plan similar controls at other crossings in year 2017. Torkham was an important route for Afghanistan in terms of economy. Stricter controls on the border also made cross-border ties for Afghan refugees somewhat difficult to maintain. In response, Kabul has now moved closer to India.
Close to 2.5 million Afghan refugees reside in Pakistan, half of which may be documented. Pakistani officials say they would have Afghan refugees return home with dignity, and voluntarily. As of now it is unclear how Afghanistan plans to manage the massive influx of returnees. The government, primarily living on foreign aid, promised the refugees some land and small cash grants valued at $50 to help them resettle. But the allocation system is unclear. UNHCR initially offered $400 aid package to Afghan refugees, but the project went broke given the number of returnees was 10 times higher than expected.
Things will not be easy for the returning refugees. Most people are living in tents, most of them made from sheets. Women were seen cooking over open fires outside. Clashes between the government and Taliban forces have seen a severe escalation in the recent past, especially after most foreign troops withdrew from Afghanistan. That alone drove over half a million Afghans from their homes in 2016 alone. Meanwhile, the U.N. has only managed to raise half of the planned $150 million needed to cover the costs of Afghans displaced inside the country. This, in itself, is a cause of concern and implies increasing donor fatigue owing to decades of war and crises.You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ for more updates. Otherwise fill in the subscription box above, or subscribe to our RSS Feed.