Afghan Refugees in Balochistan
By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
Balochistan, which is the economically shattered province of Pakistan, has been hosting Afghan refugees for more than three decades. The Afghan refugees, as analysts say, are still reluctant to return back to Afghanistan from Balochistan, Pakistan. Instead they are trying to settle themselves entirely in Balochistan. As they have been expanding their businesses, particularly in Quetta, which is the metropolitan of Balochistan.
The long and tiresome presence of Afghan refugees has not only been creating hurdles for Balochistan’s poor class but also put them into chaos. Also, financially sound Afghan refugees have made Pakistani CNICs by bribing NADRA officials. And with the same CNICs, they go to abroad, especially Saudi Arabia for performing Hajj, while local people are deprived of it. Moreover, they have been getting their all sorts of requirements full-filled. They have snatched the livelihood from local people’s mouth.
The majority of Afghan refugees are unregistered in Balochistan. They are mostly living in Quetta, Balochistan’s Pashtun belt and Baloch belt, particularly in Dalbandin and Nushki.
It is also manifest to everyone that that Balochistan’s borders are loosely governed; therefore, Afghan refugees can travel between Pakistan and Afghanistan in ease. They don’t face any hindrance in this regard.
Baloch IDPs (Baloch Internally Displaced Persons), who have been living on Balochistan and Sindh border, also in interior Sindh, don’t have facilities of food and drinking water. They are even suffering from lethal diseases due to floods. As compared to Baloch Internally Displaced Persons, Afghan refugees are living more comfortably in Balochistan. On the other hand, Afghan refugees are split over to urban centers all over the province unlike Baloch IDPs.
Balochistan’s political parties blame that Afghan refugees are involved in drug trafficking and criminal activities.
While United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) official told this writer under the condition of anonymity, “UNHCR has got nothing to do with Afghan refugees’ illegal activities, remember, UNHCR is responsible for providing assistance to them so that they may return back to Afghanistan voluntarily.” As it is stated unofficially that 4 million Afghan refugees inhabit in the province, and many of the Afghan refugees who repatriated to Afghanistan, now have come back illegally into Balochistan province. UNHCR official negated this claim by saying, “We have only half million Afghan refugees registered in Balochistan. If some of them have come back to Balochistan, Pakistan, because they fear in their mind that law and order will be ruined again if NATO withdraws in 2014 from Afghanistan.”
On the other hand, when this writer spoke to Balochistan National Party Mengal (BNP-Mengal) leader, Agha Hasssan Baloch, who said about Afghan refugees, “Baloch is a secular nation; but it is being marginalized by allowing Afghan refugees on their land. For example, Afghan refugees have been accommodated in Balochistan’s Baloch populated districts, namely, Chaghi and Nushki, which are attached with Afghanistan border. On the other hand, Quetta, which has been the land of four tribes Shahwani, Kasi, Syed and Marri, and market language of Quetta, was Bravi before 1958. But it is now replete with Afghan refugees. They dwell in Pashtunabad, Kharotabad, Satellite town, Nava Killi and so on.”
He further said that “Baloch Internally Displaced Persons (Baloch IDPs) have been living a miserable life in Naseerabad, Sangarh, Jaffarabad, etc. Unfortunately, UNHCR doesn’t seem to help them. They are fully marooned. So, it is better that they all should be rehabilitated to their old indigenous places, and Afghan refugees, as it is UNHCR’s and government’s responsibility to send them back to Afghanistan involuntarily.”
It is, however, to be noted that Afghan refugees are merged with Balochistan’s local Pashtoon people, so in this context, it is difficult for UNHCR and Government officials to separate them from them. And, to a greater extent, Qilla Abdullah, Kuchlak, Chaman, Lorlai and Qilla Saifullah’s population increased. So, it is pertinent that not only Balochs but also Pashtoon people’s population affected. Balochistan, despite suffering already from economic, political and social problems, as also suffered a lot from the accommodation of Afghan refugees on their land.
In recent past, as Baloch nationalists claimed that Afghan refugees had also been counted in census, while Balochs had boycotted from it. And this, as they speak out, is a plight to convert local Balochs into minority.
Lastly, Balochistan’s local people have been living in constant fear due to the presence of Afghan refugees. They also think that Afghan refugees’ further presence may compound their economical problems. So, in this light, government ought to escalate the repatriation process of Afghan refugess, so that Balochistan’s local people may live peacefully and comfortably in their own indigenous places.
(Courtesy to: Daily Balochistan Express Quetta)