The police treated us as if we were not human. They raided our houses, abused both the male and female family members, and expelled us in very adverse conditions.
by Eugene Walker
It began on October, with the Pakistani government’s announcement of mass deportations for all migrants without papers by Nov. 1. The vast majority of these migrants are Afghans. This is a forced expulsion campaign aimed at well over a million residents. The interior ministry established a special telephone number encouraging Pakistanis to report any “illegal foreigners” living in their neighborhood. Landlords were threatened with fines for continuing to rent to foreigners without papers.
Tens of thousands of Afghans fled the country in the weeks before the deadline. They were prohibited from taking much with them—not their cattle nor other property and only a limited amount of money. Since Nov. 1, police have been going door to door to check migrants’ documents. Those without papers face arrest, or are taken to the Afghanistan border and expelled. It is estimated that over 350,000 migrants have been expelled, with thousands forced out every day. There are perhaps 1.4 million undocumented Afghans living in Pakistan. Millions of others with different types of provisional papers are not necessarily safe.
Why have Pakistani authorities decided on this mass expulsion campaign? After all, millions of Afghans have lived in Pakistan, some for decades—first during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, then during the first Taliban rule in the 1990s, and now with the most recent Taliban government which routed the U.S. and its allies in 2021.
PAKISTAN BATTLES THEIR OWN TALIBAN
The most immediate reason lies in the deteriorating relations between Pakistan and the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan. At issue are the armed attacks being carried out in Pakistan by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a banned armed group which swears allegiance to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Founded in 2007, the TTP says its goal is to impose its hardline interpretation of Islamic law on Pakistan. Bombings carried out by TTP have increased since the Taliban returned to rule Afghanistan. Pakistan has pressured them to stop the TTP attacks, but without success. Now Pakistan is carrying out mass expulsions of Afghans to force the Taliban to take action. What an inhuman action!
This “solution” will mean the suffering of Afghan refugees. What exactly are they being forced to return to? Afghanistan, impoverished by decades of wars and conflict and now facing a severe food and jobs crisis, is a country where 15 million of its 40 million people do not know where their next meal will come from. Combine this with its extreme repression of any freedom for women. Afghanistan has been isolated by the international aid community for its repressive policies.
What kind of life will these refugees face? Only social transformation from below in both countries can make a real difference in people’s lives.