The Pakistani state has long lacked compassion for its own citizens so its lack of compassion for citizens of neighboring countries is predictable. The recent decision to forcefully repatriate around 2 million Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan needs to be reconsidered and returning Afghans need to be treated with compassion. They are owed that.
This is important not only because for the last two years Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis has exacerbated but because of the devastating earthquake that just struck the country resulting in over 2,000 deaths and thousands left injured and homeless.
As an Editorial in Dawn notes, “The drive, which has been criticised for seeking to forcibly push those who had fled violence, persecution and impoverishment in Afghanistan back into that troubled country, has been pursued with unseemly eagerness by the caretaker government, with one ministry even running a countdown on X (formerly Twitter) to remind undocumented migrants about the number of days they have remaining in this country.”
Further, “reports abound of refugee settlements being shuttered, landlords being told to evict Afghan tenants, and Afghans — both documented and undocumented, men, women and children — being rounded up by police across the country.”
The Editorial notes, that while authorities “are well within their rights to demand that migrants and refugee seekers, especially those who are undocumented, return, is this really the right way to go about doing so? Uprooting hundreds of thousands of human beings who have scraped together a life in Pakistan and sending them back to an uncertain future defined by terror and turmoil seems unnecessarily cold, made all the more so by the short deadline given to them to pack up and leave.”
In conclusion, Dawn urged the UNHCR and International Organisation for Migration “to work proactively with the Pakistani government to find a quick solution to this issue. It appears from reports that the authorities here are unprepared for the task they have taken on.”