On World Refugee Day, Afghans in Pakistan fear deportation

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Children outside their homes in Ghundo refugee camp on the outskirts of Peshawar, capital of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province. (AN photo)
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Mud-built shops in an Afghan refugee camp in the Malakand district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province. (AN photo)
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Refugee Rasool Khan, 40, was born in Pakistan and is a representative of Afghan traders in the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce.
Updated 20 June 2018
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On World Refugee Day, Afghans in Pakistan fear deportation

  • Islamabad has set June 30 as the deadline for Afghan refugees to return to their country
  • Nearly 4.2 million Afghans have been repatriated to their native country since 2002, according to the UN refugee agency

PESHAWAR: Rasool Khan, 40, and his four siblings were born in Pakistan, his family having moved there immediately after the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1978.
Both his grandfather and father were merchants and frequently visited Pakistan. “My father used to visit Pakistan for business, but in the 1970s he permanently moved there because of the war in Afghanistan,” Khan said.
But Pakistan has set June 30 as the deadline for Afghan refugees to leave the country. Khan, a representative of Afghan traders in the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce, said there should be a separate policy for students, businesspeople and Afghans married to Pakistani women.
“It’s not fair to deal with all Afghans under the same policy of deportation and repatriation,” he added.
With World Refugee Day being observed on June 20, Afghans living in Pakistan hope that the deadline will be extended.
Abdul Hameed, director of the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations, said Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) province hosts 1.1 million Afghan refugees.
Based in KP’s capital Peshawar, he expressed hope that Pakistan’s caretaker government will extend the stay of Afghan refugees.
“Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan are improving, and both sides are in touch on the refugee issue,” he told Arab News.
The director general of the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees in KP, Waqar Maroof, said Islamabad is considering adopting a separate policy for Afghan students, traders and those married to Pakistani women.
“Once KP’s Interior Ministry gives the go-ahead, we’ll implement the plan,” he told Arab News.
Qaiser Khan Afridi, spokesman in Pakistan for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said 4.2 million Afghans have been repatriated to their native country since 2002.
“Pakistan is the second-largest refugee host country (in the world), and it is hosting around 1.4 million Afghan registered refugees at the moment,” he added.
Islamabad says there are more than 1 million Afghans living in Pakistan without proper documentation.
“We want Afghan refugees to stay in Pakistan with legal and valid documents,” said Maroof. “Afghans who were repatriated to their native country want to come to Pakistan on a valid visa and passport so they can stay here legally.”
Khan fears losing the business he and his father built over the last four decades if he is forced to go to Afghanistan.
His friend Masham Khan moved there a few months ago, but returned to Pakistan after getting a visa because “there isn’t enough business activity” in Afghanistan.


Afghan VP Dostum to return after more than a year in exile

Updated 13 min 31 sec ago
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Afghan VP Dostum to return after more than a year in exile

  • The powerful ethnic Uzbek leader and former warlord is linked to a catalogue of human rights abuses in Afghanistan
  • Dostum’s return comes amid violent protests in several provinces across northern Afghanistan

KABUL: Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum is expected to return to Kabul Sunday, more than a year after fleeing the country during an investigation into the rape and torture of a political rival.
The powerful ethnic Uzbek leader and former warlord, who is linked to a catalogue of human rights abuses in Afghanistan, will fly from Turkey to Kabul where he will be welcomed by high-ranking officials at a special ceremony, Afghan officials said.
“At 4:00 p.m. (1130 GMT) today General Dostum’s flight will land at Kabul international airport,” Jamal Nasir Farahmand, a spokesman for Dostum, told AFP.
Dostum’s return, which has been the subject of much speculation, comes amid violent protests in several provinces across northern Afghanistan — his traditional power base.
Thousands of Dostum’s supporters have taken to the streets in recent weeks, shuttering election and government offices and blocking sections of highways, demanding the release of a pro-government militia leader and calling for Dostum’s return.
Observers say President Ashraf Ghani gave the green light for Dostum to come back to Afghanistan to quell the unrest.
Dostum left Afghanistan in May 2017 after he was accused of organizing the rape and torture of a political rival.
He had denied the allegations and said his departure was for medical check-ups and family reasons.
Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun, described Dostum as a “known killer” in 2009. Yet he chose the ethnic Uzbek to be his running mate in the 2014 presidential election, underlining the ethnic realities of Afghan politics.
Dostum’s return from exile comes ahead of the 2019 presidential election that Ghani, who is deeply unpopular among non-Pashtuns, is widely expected to contest.
Presidential spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri said Saturday that Dostum had been “treated” and would resume his duties upon his return.
Seven of Dostum’s bodyguards have been convicted of the sexual assault and illegal imprisonment of Ahmad Ishchi, a former governor of northern Jowzjan province, in 2016.
Dostum allegedly had Ishchi abducted in Jowzjan and then kept him hostage in his private compound for several days, where the captive was said to have been tortured and sodomised.
Chakhansuri deflected questions about whether Dostum would face charges over the incident, saying “the judiciary is an independent body, the government does not interfere in their decisions.”
Dostum is one of several controversial figures that Kabul has sought to reintegrate into mainstream politics since the US-led invasion in 2001.
His heroic status in the north belies the extreme barbarities he is known for.
Dostum, who helped the United States oust the Taliban regime in 2001, allegedly allowed hundreds of Taliban prisoners to be suffocated to death in shipping containers.