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Why Pakistan cannot accept more Afghan refugees?

Pakistan, with its limited resources, is still hosting 2.8 million Afghan refugees

Violence has been on the rise in the war-battered country in recent weeks as the Taliban had captured dozens of districts, especially in northern areas, where they had convinced some government forces to surrender. The surge in violence comes after all US-led foreign forces have begun to leave the country and are set to complete the drawdown by Sept. 11.

It is a fact that the increasing violence in Afghanistan may lead to a new civil war in the country, with serious consequences for the region. Pakistan would be directly affected by this crisis as it is located at the centre of a geopolitical standoff.

Afghan refugees

Escalation of violence might not only reduce all chances of repatriation of Afghan refugees but also likely result in more refugees coming to Pakistan. Pakistan, with its limited resources, is still hosting 2.8 million Afghan refugees which is the second-largest refugee number after Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Despite suffering an onslaught by terrorist organizations, Pakistan continues to support Afghanistan and its people on the economic and development fronts. It still provides 55,000 visas to Afghan people every month for health and education needs.

Recently, Pakistan’s military leadership briefed the parliamentarians on the post-US withdrawal situation in Afghanistan. The meeting was informed that as many as 500,000-700,000 Afghan refugees are expected to come to Pakistan.

Fencing of borders

The banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militant groups have established bases at Afghanistan’s border following a 2014 Pakistani military operation against terrorists in the former tribal areas, including North Waziristan, at the behest of the Pakistani government.

Pakistan has also taken a big step by fencing the border completely in order to avoid any illegal cross-border movement. The fencing of the 2,640 km land border with Afghanistan began in March 2017 after a spate of attacks from across the porous border.  

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said that fencing along the Afghan border would be completed within two months. He added that fencing along the border was 88 percent complete whereas 46 percent of the Iranian border had also been fenced.

Final words

Pakistan’s political leadership must think together to avoid the dangers posed by instability in Afghanistan. Pakistan has already sacrificed over 70,000 lives in the War on Terror. The collateral damage led to suicide attacks on the Pakistani army, which killed more soldiers than the US lost in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

I will not be easy for the country’s struggling economy to bear another million refugees from Afghanistan. The country should voice its concern over the increasing violence in its neighbourhood.