KABUL, Afghanistan — In a concerning development, United Nations agencies have observed a significant surge in the number of Afghans returning home, triggered by Pakistan's recent crackdown on individuals residing in the country without proper documentation. Urging Pakistan to reconsider its policy before it exacerbates into a "human rights catastrophe," the agencies have expressed deep concern over the potential implications of the ongoing crackdown.
Pakistan's decision to arrest and deport undocumented or unregistered foreigners, effective after October 31, has led to the establishment of deportation centers in two provinces bordering Afghanistan. While the government maintains that the campaign is not directed at any specific nationality, it disproportionately affects Afghans, who form the majority of foreigners residing in Pakistan.
As per the UN agencies' report released on Friday, over 2 million undocumented Afghans are currently in Pakistan, with at least 600,000 fleeing following the Taliban's takeover in 2021. The situation in Afghanistan has worsened, particularly for women and girls facing severe restrictions imposed by the Taliban, such as limitations on education beyond the sixth grade and restrictions on public spaces and employment opportunities.
Between October 3-15, tens of thousands of Afghans left Pakistan, citing the fear of arrest as the primary reason for their hasty departure, according to the International Organization for Migration and the UN refugee agency. The agencies have fervently appealed to Pakistani authorities to halt the forced returns, emphasizing the grave risk of human rights violations faced by those returned to Afghanistan, including arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, and other inhumane treatment.
Pakistan asserts that individuals will not face mistreatment after arrest, emphasizing a "phased and orderly" execution of deportations. However, the international community remains wary of potential repercussions, especially as the deportation campaign unfolds against the backdrop of strained relations between Pakistan and its neighbors. Pakistan accuses the Taliban-led administration in Afghanistan of harboring militants involved in cross-border activities, an allegation vehemently denied by the Taliban. The evolving situation raises concerns about the humanitarian impact on the Afghan population and the broader geopolitical dynamics in the region.
In conclusion, the escalating exodus of Afghans from Pakistan, prompted by the recent crackdown on undocumented individuals, has raised alarm within United Nations agencies. As tensions heighten, concerns about the potential development of a human rights crisis loom large. The UN's urgent call for Pakistan to reconsider its policy reflects the apprehension surrounding the fate of over 2 million undocumented Afghans, a significant portion of whom fled following the Taliban's takeover in 2021.
The situation in Afghanistan compounds the urgency, particularly with the severe humanitarian crisis, especially impacting women and girls under Taliban rule. The restrictions on education, public life, and employment for women further underscore the challenges faced by those returning to Afghanistan.
The appeal by the International Organization for Migration and the UN refugee agency to suspend forcible returns emphasizes the potential for grave human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture upon return to Afghanistan. Despite Pakistan's assurances of a "phased and orderly" deportation process without mistreatment, the international community remains vigilant given the complex geopolitical dynamics in the region.
As the deportation campaign unfolds, the strained relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan add another layer of complexity to the situation, with accusations of cross-border activities and attacks on Pakistani security forces. The evolving circumstances demand a delicate balance between addressing security concerns and safeguarding the rights and well-being of the affected Afghan population. The international community closely watches the developments, recognizing the interconnectedness of regional stability and the protection of human rights.