Afghan deportation under the Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan launched by the caretaker setup has instigated a huge humanitarian crisis in the country. As people who have called Pakistan home for decades leave unwillingly, their children strapped to their pitiful belongings in small trucks, three sets of views have become prevalent in the country.
The first is propounded by the government: the situation of unrest and civil war has quelled in Afghanistan so it’s time for these refugees to go back. Because the land they come from is contributing to rising terrorism in Pakistan, their exit is inevitable. This narrative is deeply rooted in a superiority complex coming from hosting Afghans for decades, as is evident by the affirmative statements said as a foreword to every such explanation.
The second is the humanitarian stance where it is claimed that people who have lived here for years are not alien anymore, giving them refuge has brought aid of millions of dollars to Pakistan, and that this forceful expulsion is against the rights of refugees.
The third point of view stems from the ground realities. It is about the reality and not the narrative. This view is not just looking at the expulsion of Afghans, it is also seeing latent racism, poor execution of the plan, the rush in which it has been carried out, and the fatal flaws it carries. This view sees that the deportation is being carried out by an unelected government, blind raids are being conducted where people with legal documents are getting arrested, contrary to the claims of the government that only illegal foreigners will be arrested. It also shows video documents of the Pashtun community being targeted, even if they are Pakistani – picked up by the police and deported to foreign lands only because they look like, or talk like, them. It sees families getting harassed, and children being separated from parents even though these guardians are desperately proving their Pakistaniat. It displays the human tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes without any media coverage.
Some experts believe that the policy is part of a broader retaliation for the Afghan Taliban’s failure to rein in the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), even as the militant group orchestrates attack upon attack on Pakistani soil.
Videos have emerged where parents are showing the birth certificates of children who do not hold a CNIC yet are sent to the Chaman border for the journey to Afghanistan. Anas, a 16-year-old boy, managed to call his father, pleading with him to save him from being deported while the SHO in front of the holding centre nonchalantly said that people sent by mistake are not going to be reproduced by the authorities. Media presence is already banned in the holding centres and there is no way to question this. The mainstream media is also not giving the matter due attention.
The government is turning a blind eye to the suffering of four million Afghan refugees forced to leave on the brink of a hard winter to a land foreign to them since they were born here.
The government does not need to emulate any country when it is itself setting an unprecedented level of cruelty.
Siding with xenophobia is a xenophobic act in itself.