Burqa-clad Afghan refugees arrive at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) repatriation center in Torkham, as they cross through the main border between Afghanistan and Pakistan to return to their home country after fleeing civil war and Taliban rule.

As the US withdrew, the situation with the Taliban escalated – they started a rampant spree of taking over lucrative trade routes and occupying cities to assert their dominance. Naturally, the memories are fresh in everyone’s minds about what the Taliban did: elderly Afghans especially recall the horrors of the Soviet-era war. Many of them had left their country – and now it seems another migration is on its way, for which Pakistan must take steps.

Firstly, the current situation in Pakistan about Afghan refugees is very mixed; most see them as outsiders, and the social connections most Afghans build are with the Pakhtun community, who constitute 15% of Pakistan’s population. Their affinities in terms of languages and culture results in the established Pakhtuns giving a social boost to the incoming Afghan refugees. According to the UNHCR, Pakistan is currently hosting 1.4 million Afghan refugees and 300,000 of them are based in Karachi alone. Before, they lived in camps, but now that seems unlikely – there are many Afghan settlements, such as the one Afghan settlement across Sohrab Goth, and most likely, an influx of refugees would happily choose to live there surrounded by people of similar culture. The Afghans who settled here properly can be found living in Gulshan-e-Iqbal as well as posh areas like Defence. Many now have CNIC’s, especially the youth born here, and they do well socially by setting up businesses where exclusively Afghan’s are dominating: they’ve started to run well-managed trash collection services and have acquired vehicles and premises which they give out on rent. Illegal activities also provide a source of revenue: drug trafficking and gun-running also serve as income generators for displaced people.

Political parties, some of them, have taken up a call for Afghan rights. But most choose not to. Especially in Karachi, because traditional parties in the region see the new population as those who will align with the opposing political parties – this results in more social fault lines.

Karachi, especially, lacks a proper city plan with which they can oversee development and the provision of proper education and adequate healthcare . . . with this new population stemming in, this will become a bigger problem for the government to handle which already has the burden of an overpopulated citizenry to deal with.


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