Refugees’ plight

Pakistan needs to do better

As you read this, a spate of arrests and detentions is being carried out against Afghan refugees across the country. And, as is the case with such measures, there are plenty of extra-judicial excesses committed by the officers of the state during this exercise. But even the actions within the ambit of the law definitely deserve to be questioned.

Yes, Pakistan has not signed the 1951 Geneva Convention on the status of refugees. But for the same matters to be decided by an archaic-sounding Foreigners Act has no place in a modern democracy. It’s not the name that this paper has an issue with, but the arbitrary – and inhumane – manner in which the refugees deemed not to have proper documentation are treated.

Some of the authorities are citing an increase in crime as the reason behind the drive. Now, the correlation between Afghan refugees and crime is often parroted unthinkingly but never actually put through greater statistical scrutiny. In fact, several reports have come in, disproving any such link.

But it is suspected that it is, in fact, the increased tensions between the Afghan (de facto) government and Pakistan that is causing the latter to take out its brunt on the Afghan nationals. The irony in this state of affairs is palpable. The previous two Afghan dispensations were cooperating with the Pakistan government in the war against terror, having taken out several key members of the Tehrik-e-Taliban, Pakistan (TTP.) Now, the government of Pakistan seems to want to take out the Taliban’s inaction against another kind of Taliban, on the demographic that despises the Taliban enough to choose not to live in the country that they now govern.

Pakistan has had a role to play in the hellish lives that the people of Afghanistan have to live now. Influential quarters within the country have also benefited from it. For the state to take out its frustrations on a most sensitive and precariously positioned community, reeks of an inhumane childishness.

Pakistan has made its bed; now, it has to lay in it.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].


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