Fleeing away from violent or some likewise situation of one’s own country and taking refuge in another country for one’s survival is how a refugee is defined as. With the increased escaping tactics, the world’s proportion has been imbalanced to a great extent. Same goes for Pakistan, where an ultimate reality check is highly called for, given the rising migration statistics a mere thought. Talking of proportion, the population of Pakistan has augmented many-folds, in the past few decades, against the available resources. According to statistics, Pakistan is the sixth largest populous country in the world with an estimated population of 180 million people. While refugees in Pakistan are 1.5 million out of these 180 million inhabitants, it is a significant figure.
The migration of Afghan refugees dates back to Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1970s to ’80s. 80 percent of refugee inflow occurred in around the same period. The civil war and political unrest led to Afghans absconding their country and seeking refuge in Pakistan. Durand line, the border connecting the two countries was an easy escape site for war stricken people. It started then with 3 million Afghan migrations, and never really stopping, raising the number to 5 million during US operation in 2001. But population is not the only problem concerning Pakistan, its numerous other factors that came along included terrorism, unemployment, scarcity of resources to meet ends, economic burden, illegal drugs use and its prevalence, etc. posing a threat to our not-so-strong infrastructure.
Do you know: Pakistan stands as a second largest nation in terms of hosting 1.5 million (long-term) refugees after Turkey, which tops the list with about 1.59 million Syrian refugees. (Source: Dawn)
The grave concerns regarding Pakistan started surfacing soon after the refugee influx. It was then in 2002 that government decided to send back refugees to where they originally belonged. This was nevertheless difficult for refugees in Pakistan to deal with, resulting in the repatriation of some 2.7 million. While some were challenging for the government to handle, for they chose to stay back which amounted to 2 million of them. So as to ease the situation, the repatriation date was extended from March to December 2006. This program was initiated in collaboration with United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), a body formed for looking after the well-being of refugees worldwide. The constant fluctuating situation in Afghanistan abstained refugees in Pakistan from going back. Now a proper policy is needed to be devised for Afghans to be sent back.
Unregistered and Unidentified Afghan immigrants
A large number of refugees in Pakistan, who poured through a porous and extended border, was difficult for forces to keep a check on. The consequences were resultantly grave as majority of them started living without being registered with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). This gave rise to extreme security concerns while worsening the law and order situation. Such people infiltrate into the masses posing a threat to security and peace within a country.
According to various researchers, refugees are most vulnerable to taking part in crimes. The poor class of refugees ironically seek further refuge in committing crimes and by crime here, it means getting indulged in terrorist activities. The banned organizations offer a good sum of money for carrying out horrendous delinquencies, resulting in endangering the lives of innocent Pakistanis.
2014 APS Peshawar massacre, the unforgettable deadliest attack in the history of Pakistan, killing 114 innocent children is one such example. The terrorists involved were reported to be Afghan militants, and the likewise situation goes for Charsada University attack. These attacks sadly would haunt the related ones for the rest of their lives. Pakistanis have paid a lot, have paid even for the ones that they did not owe to. But, as the good things come to an end so does the bad ones. The operations started countrywide has minimized these awful acts to a great deal.
Meagre resources with such a large population undeniably have a severe strain on the economic condition of Pakistan. Unemployment is on the rise to the disappointment of youth. Our youth is facing fierce competition in getting jobs. Not to sound harsh but refugees are to be blamed, who are happily working on lower wages, restricting the chances of youth in job hunting, who are approx. 60% of the whole population. Yet another reason for the refugees to leave Pakistan.
Demand and Supply Theory
What leads to rising prices of goods? The greater majority of the population leads to rise in the demand for goods, and hence the prices reach sky-high. In the past years, inflation has touched the horizons of all times. Pakistan is therefore in not in any position to support such a large number of 1.5 million refugees.
The Illicit Act of Drugs and Human Smuggling
Afghanistan is the world’s largest illicit opium production hub. This illegal drug has hit the record production in past few years. In 1994, where opium was cultivated on 25,000 hectares of land, the area surged to 225,000 hectares in 2014 according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2014 Afghan Opium Survey. Pakistan is the ultimate target as a result and from here onwards it is further exported to Europe, Australia, and the Middle East, hence defaming the good name of Pakistan.
Human trafficking is another crucial issue faced due to the influx of refugees in Pakistan. Children being highly vulnerable are most exposed to these traffickers, who have no respect for humanity at all.
Unregistered Subscriber Identity Modules (SIM)
SIMs are smuggled in bulks from across the border which are then used for carrying out illegal activities like those of extortion and terrorist attacks. Such SIMs are used by extortionists to make threatening calls to businesspeople and other professionals demanding for money. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the primary target due to its proximity to the Afghan border.
Other Social Issues
Robbery, kidnapping on the accounts of ransom and other such social dilemmas occur when poverty hits hard. Similar situations have prevailed over the past few decades, thus flourishing lawlessness. Refugees in Pakistan are mostly allegedly responsible majority of such ill-acts.
And the list goes on from pedophilia to tax evasions and money laundering. Is Pakistan thus in any position to provide haven to those who are damaging the roots of our country?
Will Repatriation of Refugees in Pakistan Ever Occur?
Afghan refugees in Pakistan were given a deadline of 30 June for returning to their home country, Afghanistan. But the people who have settled here for decades would take a time to return. Considering the fact empathically, the deadline has been extended to 31 December 2016. In order to compensate for the losses they might have to face UNHCR have even allocated grants of Rs. 300,000 on voluntary repatriation of each Afghan family.
In the light of above points, we need to devise a proper method by which those who are not getting registered by the due date should be treated with the iron hand. But for those who are willing to live peacefully and contribute constructively towards the development of the nation should be given proper status in society. For they can actually prove to be beneficial for our country.
As the situation in Afghanistan has stabilized and peace has long prevailed, it’s about time that refugees are sent back where they could help in the development of their own country. The government is doing everything in its power to deal with the matter patiently. This calls for cooperation on the part of refugees too. Because ultimately they do not belong here and their sincerity would always be for their own homeland. The list jotted down above does not allow us to let such state of affairs prolong anymore and ultimately end up in damaging the roots of Pakistan.
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