Afghans in Pakistan
|c. 1.6 million registered Afghans according to UNCHR
c. 2.7 million registered and illegal Afghans according to some Pakistani officials
1.5% of Pakistan's population (2012)
|Pashto · Dari · Hazaragi · Uzbek · Urdu · English (Pakistani English) · other languages|
|Related ethnic groups|
Afghans in Pakistan (Urdu: افغان مُہاجر, Muhajir Afghans) are refugees who have fled wars in Afghanistan. It also includes smaller number of asylum seekers waiting to be settled in Western countries, as well as Afghan diplomats, traders, businesspersons, workers, exchanged students, tourists and other visitors. The first wave of Afghan migration into Pakistan began during the 1980s Soviet war in Afghanistan. As of December 2012, approximately 1.7 million Afghan nationals were reported to be living in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and northwestern Balochistan, which sit next to Afghanistan. Most of these refugees were born and raised in Pakistan in the last 30 years but are still counted as citizens of Afghanistan. They are under the protection and care of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and provided legal status by the Government of Pakistan to remain in the country indefinitely.
The overwhelming majority of Afghans in Pakistan are ethnic Pashtun tribes who are known to live and work on both sides of the Afghanistan–Pakistan border, but there are also significant numbers of Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Baloch, Turkmen and other ethnic groups of Afghanistan. Over the years governmental control on refugees has resulted in numerous returnees. As of March 2012, Pakistan has banned extension of visas to all foreigners, including Afghans.
- 1 History and migration
- 2 Demographics
- 3 Social life and other issues
- 4 Crime
- 5 Notable people
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
History and migration
Dynasties, especially from the time of the Ghaznavids of Ghazni, and nomad people from modern-day Afghanistan have been migrating to the South Asia (modern-day Pakistan and India) for centuries. Before the mid-19th century, parts of Afghanistan and present-day Pakistan were part of the Durrani Empire and ruled by a successive line of Pashtun kings who had their capitals in the Afghan cities of Kandahar and Kabul. In 1857, in his review of J.W. Kaye's The Afghan War, Friedrich Engels describes "Afghanistan" as:
[...] an extensive country of Asia [...] between Persia and the Indies, and in the other direction between the Hindu Kush and the Indian Ocean. It formerly included the Persian provinces of Khorassan and Kohistan, together with Herat, Beluchistan, Cashmere, and Sinde, and a considerable part of the Punjab [...] Its principal cities are Kabul, the capital, Ghuznee, Peshawer, and Kandahar.
Thus, interaction and migration between the native people in this region was common. After the Second Anglo-Afghan War, the Durand Line was established in the late 1800s for fixing the limits of sphere of influence between Mortimer Durand of British India and Afghan Amir Abdur Rahman Khan. When Pakistan inherited this single-page agreement in 1947, which was basically to end political interference beyond the frontier line between Afghanistan and what was then colonial British India, it divided the indigenous ethnic Pashtun and Baloch tribes.
During the 1980s Soviet war in Afghanistan, a large number of Afghans began leaving their country. As a result of political unrest, mass arrests and executions, and other human rights violations, as well as the civil war, around 3 million Afghan refugees escaped to Pakistan and about 2 million to Iran (see Afghans in Iran). The migration began after December 1979 when the former Soviet Union (USSR) invaded Afghanistan with over 100,000 troops and continued throughout the 1980s. In late 1988, approximately 3.3 million Afghan refugees were housed in 340 refugee camps along the Afghan-Pakistan border in what is now called Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Pakistan. It was reported by the New York Times in November 1988 that about 100,000 of the refugees were living in the city of Peshawar while more than 2 million were staying in the whole of KP, which was referred to as NWFP at the time. Located on the outskirts of Peshawar, the now-closed Jalozai camp was one of the largest refugee camps in NWFP.
According to one researcher, who writes that these refugees were: (1) Those "who came from politically prominent and wealthy families with personal and business assets outside Afghanistan; (2) a small group who arrived with the assets that they could bring with them such as trucks, cars and limited funds and which has done relatively well in Pakistan integrating into the new society and engaging successfully in commerce; (3) those refugees who came from the ranks of the well-educated and include professionals such as doctors, engineers anld teachers; (4) Refugees who escaped with household goods and herds of sheep, cattle and yaks but for the most part must be helped to maintain themselves; (5) the fifth and the largest group constituting about 60 per cent of the refugees are ordinary Afghans who arrived with nothing and are largely dependent on Pakistan and international efforts for subsistence."
After the 2001 September 11 attacks in the United States, when the U.S.-led forces began bombing al-Qaeda and Taliban targets inside Afghanistan, a small number of Afghans fled their country and crossed into Pakistan. This included mostly foreign militant groups (al-Qaida), local Taliban members and some ordinary Afghans who feared that they may end up being bombed by mistake. By the end of 2001, there were a total of approximately 5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, which included the ones who were born inside Pakistan during the past 20 years. The Afghan diaspora in Pakistan formed the largest group of Afghans living outside their country at the time.
UNHCR repatriation and current status
Since early 2002, more than 5 million Afghans have been repatriated through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) from both Pakistan and Iran back to their native country, Afghanistan. According to a 2005 report Census of Afghans in Pakistan by the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (Government of Pakistan), the ethnic breakdown of Afghans in Pakistan was as follows: Pashtuns (81.5%), Tajiks (7.3%), Uzbeks (2.3%), Hazara (1.3%), Turkmen (2.0%), Balochi (1.7%) and others (3.9%). The Government of Pakistan receives $133 million a year from UNHCR for hosting Afghans on its side of the border.
From 2005 to late 2006, the Government of Pakistan began and completed a registration process of all Afghans living in the country. The total number of registered Afghans was reported at 2.15 million in February 2007. They were all issued computerized "proof of registration" (PoR) cards with special biometric features, similar to the Pakistani National Identity Card (NIC) but has "Afghan Citizen" on the front.
More than 357,000 Afghans were repatriated from Pakistan in the year 2007. The repatriation process took place between March and October of that year, with each person receiving a travel package of about 100 US dollars. Approximately 80% of the refugees were those living in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 13% from Balochistan, 3% from Sindh, and the remaining 4% from Punjab and Pakistan's capital city, Islamabad.
As of March 2009, up to 1.7 million registered Afghan refugees still remain in Pakistan. Many of them were born and raised in Pakistan in the last 30 years but are still counted as citizens of Afghanistan. They are allowed to work, rent houses, travel and attend schools in the country until the end of 2012. Because Afghanistan is not ready to accept so many returnees at this point, the UNHCR is shifting small number of refugees abroad, mostly to Canada, Australia, Germany, Norway, Sweden and other countries. Each family that returns to Afghanistan, on production of repatriation documents issued by the UNHCR, is believed to be provided free plot of land by the Government of Afghanistan to build a new home.
An unknown number of Afghan passport holders travel to Pakistan with a visa for various reasons, including family visit, business or trade, medical purpose, sport competitions, education, tourism, or to visit foreign embassies that are based inside Pakistan. Some go without the necessary travel documents and when arrested they either pay fines or spend time in jail. The same is the case for Pakistanis who work inside Afghanistan. The visa fee between the two states is free of charge and is usually valid for three months. As of March 2012, Pakistan has banned extension of visas to all Afghan nationals.
The Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has stepped up efforts for a mass-scale deportation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan. In July 2012, the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions of the Government of Pakistan declared that all Afghan refugees would be repatriated from the start of 2013. In the meantime, Afghanistan's Minister of Refugees and Repatriation announced that his ministry would establish 48 towns in Afghanistan for the returning refugees from Pakistan and Iran. "The ministry plans to establish 48 towns in 22 provinces of the country with the cooperation of the United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees in the next three years to provide shelters for those returning from Pakistan and Iran." This suggests that all Afghan refugees from Pakistan and Iran will finally be shifted to Afghanistan in the next three years.
Between 2010 and the end of 2012, a total of 229,000 Afghan refugees left Pakistan and returned to Afghanistan. Approximately 1.65 million refugees still remain in Pakistan. Some Pakistani officials assert that an estimated 400,000 to 1 million more Afghans may be living in their country illegally but there is no way of verifying these numbers. It makes it more difficult due to the fact that large number of people go back and forth between the two countries on daily bases without documents, especially the Kuchis and other Pashtuns who usually stay in Afghanistan during the summer season and move to Pakistan during the winter. They have been doing this for thousands of years.
Most Afghans are generally found in the Pashtun dominated areas of Pakistan, which includes Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the city of Quetta in northern Balochistan. Smaller communities exist in Karachi, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Lahore, and possibly other major cities.
85% of Afghan refugees in Pakistan are Pashtuns, while the remaining 15% comprise Uzbeks, Tajiks and other ethnic groups. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa hosts the largest Afghan Refugees population (62.1%), followed by Balochistan (30.3%), Punjab (4.2%), Sindh (4.2%), Islamabad (2%) and Azad Kashmir (0.4%).
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the FATA
During the 1980s Soviet war in Afghanistan, Peshawar served as a center for hosting Afghan refugees. The Jalozai refugee camp alone hosted an Afghan population of 100,000 during the 1988 election when Benazir Bhutto was running for Prime Minister of Pakistan. Peshawar managed to assimilate many of the ethnic Pashtun Afghans with relative ease, which has been historically (pre-1893) one of the principal cities of Afghanistan. Thousands of Afghan immigrants reside in various parts of Peshawar such as Latifabad, Zaryab colony, Hayatabad, Tehkal, Afghan colony, Afridiabad and Sethitown. During their long stay, the city of Peshawar became home for many Afghan musicians and artists.
After Peshawar, the city of Quetta ranks second with the most number of Afghan refugees (20%). Most Afghans in Quetta are engaged in lucrative business and trade activities; they have also bolstered inter-provincial trade and actively go on to work in large urban centres. Balochistan also shares similar demographics with Afghanistan and a large number of the refugees have hence migrated into the province based on ethnic links. A 2005 census of Afghans in Balochistan showed that the overwhelming majority were Pashtun, followed by Uzbeks, Tajiks, Baluchis, Hazaras and Turkmen. Quetta has the largest concentration of ethnic Hazaras outside Afghanistan, based in areas such as Hazara Town. However, due to poor law and order situation and Hazara persecutions Afghan Refugees are looking to resettle in other countries, especially Australia. 
The first wave of Afghan Hazaras arrived during the 1980s Soviet war, and more arrived after fleeing persecution under the Taliban regime in the 1990s. They developed closer links with their Pakistani Hazara patrons who had arrived during Amir Abdur Rahman Khan's reign in the late 1800s when Quetta was still part of Afghanistan. Today, these Pakistani Hazaras exercise some political influence in the provincial Government of Balochistan. As opposed to settlement camps, a great number of the Hazaras are largely urbanised and have settled in city centres.
"Sindh is home to some 50,000 Afghan refugees and most of them are staying in Karachi."—Syed Bilal Agha spokesman for the UNHCR
"The police can move only against unregistered Afghans, whose number is very small in Karachi."—a senior police official in Karachi, February 2009
In Karachi, Afghans are found especially in Pashtun-dominated neighbourhoods such as the Sohrab Goth area.
Islamabad and Rawalpindi
Before 2006, there were about 25,000 Afghans living in a refugee camp between the capital Islamabad and the adjoining sister city of Rawalpindi. After the closure of the camp, the refugees were relocated and about 7,335 Afghans were reported to be living in Rawalpindi. In 2009, it was reported that the UNHCR helped some 3,000 refugees move from the slums of Islamabad to an undeveloped plot of land in a green belt on the edge of the city. Afghans living in Islamabad are either wealthy who have strong financial support from the West or asylum seekers waiting to be settled in Western countries such as Australia, Canada, the United States, and the European Union. In the past, before Pakistan issued computerized ID cards, some Pakistanis went to Western countries as Afghans. These days, however, it is not possible to do this because the UNHCR checks to verify that the asylee is not a Pakistani citizen.
In June 2007, the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) registered 16,439 Afghans living in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore. Their number was reported at about 7,000 in October 2004. It was reported that some of the very poor ones (i.e. the trash pickers), began leaving for Afghanistan in October 2001 to fight against the United States armed forces in the 2001-present war in Afghanistan. During the same time, some Afghans were arriving to Lahore to escape the US-led bombings in Afghanistan.
Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan
During the 1980s, around 13,000 Afghans made their way to various cities of Azad Kashmir but their current status is unknown. A news article by Mazhar Tufail in The News International mentioned that there may be some Afghans among other foreigners in Azad Kashmir but no other details were provided. As of 2015, there were 11,000 unregistered Afghan refugees in Azad Kashmir who faced possible expulsion or deportation. Afghan ethnic groups from the Wakhan Corridor region have also maintained historical migration to the Gilgit–Baltistan region of northern Pakistan.
Social life and other issues
Although most of the Afghans live in specially designated refugee camps near the Pakistan-Afghan border, where they do not have much contact with mainstream Pakistani society and culture, some travel to nearby cities for work or other purposes. The population of Pakistan is about 180 million as of 2012, making it the 6th most populous country in the world. As a result of this and a number of other reasons, including the political unrest in Pakistan, energy crises, rise of unemployment, and the strained relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Afghan immigrants are increasingly viewed as an additional economic and social burden on Pakistan. For example, the 2005 earthquake and the 2010 Pakistan floods have not only affected Pakistanis but also the Afghan refugees.
Afghans who migrated to Pakistan in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion have now become permanently settled in the country and would face numerous socio-economic constraints in moving back to Afghanistan, including the prospects of finding shelter and jobs. There are furthermore second and third generation Afghans who have been born and brought up in Pakistan their entire life and would not be able to easily assimilate back in Afghanistan.
Culture and relations with Pakistani society
Due to historical, ethnic and linguistic connections, Afghan immigrants living in Pakistan find it relatively easy to adapt to local customs and culture and there are few obstacles for transition and assimilation into mainstream society; the impact of a culture shock for Afghans who settle in Pakistan is comparably little. An increasing number of Afghan immigrants use Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, as their second or third language and can fluently speak it.
Few Afghans who were born and raised in Pakistan identify themselves as Pakistanis, and express their loyalties and patriotism by referring to Pakistan as their home. They participate in various national festivities and occasions, including Independence Day celebrations.
Afghan communities have managed to retain and preserve their cultural values, traditions and customs despite the years of fighting and tough socio-economic conditions back in their country. The shared Pashtun culture of Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as other cultures, makes it easier for Afghans to feel familiar in Pakistan. Many of them were born and raised in Pakistan in the last 30 years but are still counted as citizens of Afghanistan.
Education and economics
At least 71% of registered Afghans did not have any formal education and only 20% were active in the labour market. Despite some of economic the hardships and challenges faced in Pakistan, many Afghans are not willing to return home in the nearby future, citing security concerns and lack of shelter or livelihood opportunities in Afghanistan. About 6,500 Afghans are studying in various universities across Pakistan, with 729 or so as exchanged students who earned scholarships from the Government of Pakistan. There are also numerous Afghan schools throughout Pakistan which cater to the educational needs of thousands of Afghan refugee children. The wealthy and well-off Afghans live in cities where they rent houses, drive cars, work in offices or run own businesses, with their children being enrolled in better schools and universities. Many of them receive remittances from family or friends living abroad. For example, thousands of the Kennedy Fried Chicken owners and workers transfer money every month to their extended families in Pakistan. The self-employed Afghans living in Pakistan are usually involved in the Afghan rug business, Afghan cuisines, Afghan bakeries (making and selling Afghan bread), import-export, auto showrooms, or small shops. A number of Afghans are involved in the mainstream media of Pakistan as television hosts, actors and news anchors. Najiba Faiz is originally from Kunduz, and she along with several others are popular faces on AVT Khyber and other stations. While some may drive taxi cabs or sell fruits and other products as vendors, others work in five star hotels such as the Serena and Marriott. Many also work in factories or as employees for Pakistani shop owners. A 2007 report explained that Afghans are reportedly willing to work for lower wages than the average Pakistanis. Afghan labour is heavily employed in business sectors such as transport and construction.
There are economic concerns that most Afghans do not pay taxes while living in Pakistan. In Peshawar alone, 12,000 Afghan nationals were undertaking business operations while not paying a single amount of tax. Afghan traders were making billions of rupees while not paying tax, which not only puts extra burden on local taxpayers and businessmen but also deeply affects revenue collection. To address these concerns, the Federal Board of Revenue implemented new measures to bring all Afghan traders into the tax net.
The Afghan refugees living in Pakistan are not only helped by the UNHCR but also by the UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), USAID, and a number of other aid agencies. In October 2011, Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousaf Raza Gilani blamed continuous cross-border migration from Afghanistan to Pakistan as one of the causes contributing to the spread of polio disease in the country. Gilani explained that vaccinating all the children living in refugee camps and nearby villages in the "inhospitable" terrain along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border was very difficult. He requested help from the international community while on his trip in the United Kingdom.
Cricket in Afghanistan has been widely spread and promoted due to Afghan refugees, who became influenced by the game while living in Pakistan. Most players in the Afghanistan national cricket team are composed of men who previously lived in Pakistan. Afghan cricket teams, such as the Afghan Cheetahs, frequently participate in various Pakistani domestic cricket tournaments.
Some reports have claimed harassment of Afghans at the hands of local Pakistani police and authorities. Afghans also face stereotypes in Pakistan over crime and terrorism. In December 2014 there was a terrorist attack on a school in Peshewar by the Tehrik-i-Taliban and over 100 school children were killed. A few Afghans were involved. Following the attack, Afghan refugees in Pakistan began to encounter serious harassment and often were told to return to Afghanistan. There was a mass exodus of tens of thousands of refugees which as of February 2015 was ongoing.
According to some Pakistanis, the influx of Afghan refugees into Pakistan in the 1980s contributed to the rise of conservative kalashnikov culture, sectarian violence, religious fundamentalism, drug trafficking, illegal cross-border smuggling, environmental issues, and organised crime.
According to the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951 under Pakistani nationality law, people who migrated to Pakistan prior to 18 April 1951 are counted as Pakistani citizens. While this Act was specifically set for Muhajir settlers who arrived in Pakistan following the partition of India in 1947, it generally includes all historical migrant groups including Afghans. Likewise, those who migrated after this date are required to legally apply for naturalised Pakistani citizenship and identity documents. It is estimated that over 200,000 Afghans who arrived after 1951 have obtained Pakistani citizenship and identity documents such as the Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs), in contravention of nationality laws. In 2015, Pakistani authorities pledged to block and invalidate these documents, rendering the older Afghan generations as illegal immigrants.
Thousands of Afghans were reported to be languishing in various Pakistani jails as of May 2011, most of whom are arrested for offenses ranging from petty crimes to not having a proof of registration (PoR) card, Pakistani visa or Afghan passport. In 2007, as many as 337 Afghan nationals "were arrested for illegally travelling to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj on fake Pakistani passports. After serving their prison sentences and paying fines, they were releaased on "the condition they will not enter Pakistan illegally again." In 2012, about 278 Afghan nationals were arrested by intelligence agencies for possessing fake Pakistani CNICs. According to sources related to the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, "A number of Afghan refugees (have) managed to obtain fake CNICs from different National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) offices, especially from Zhob, Loralai, Bhakkar, Muzafargarh, Thatta and Dera Ismail Khan." Khyber Pakhtunkhwa officials said that action would be taken against the Afghans and the Pakistanis who were involved in the fraud. "We have issued instructions to NADRA to start screening all the CNICs issued, which would help identify fake CNICs," an official of the Home Department said.
In another incident, several Afghans were arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency at a passport office in Lahore involved in making Pakistani CNICs and passports through fraudulent means. According to sources, Afghan immigrants can pay as much as Rs. 150,000 to Rs. 200,000 to obtain Pakistani nationality documents.
There has been a debate in Pakistan in recent years about issuing CNICs to the remaining registered Afghan nationals residing in Pakistan, many of which were born inside Pakistan. But several Pakistani politicians expressed their objection to the idea. One of them stated "they have overstayed their welcome, scattered across our cities and taken up our jobs".
Smuggling became a major business after the establishment of the Durand Line in 1893, which is now controlled by a large network of mafia groups on both sides of the border. Some of the main items smuggled from Afghanistan into Pakistan are drugs such as opium, hashish, and heroin, as well as lumber, precious stones, copper, automobiles and electronics.
The thriving drugs trade in the last decades and the opium production in Afghanistan have taken a toll on Pakistan. According to a 2001 report, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban government) have been unable to stop the refining and export of heroin stockpiles from its borders. The immediate result has been extensive smuggling of drugs into Pakistan illegally. However, recent reports explain that 90% of heroin from Afghanistan is smuggled into Central Asia.
Another form of smuggling is human trafficking. According to one particular report, asylum seeking Afghans, Iranians, and others wanting to reach Malaysia pay up to $10,000 to Pakistani human smugglers in the city of Karachi.
According to a Pakistani government assessment, more than 90% of terrorist attacks in Pakistan are traced to Afghan refugees camps. Militants from Afghanistan sometimes enter and cross over into Pakistan's bordering regions for shelter. Due to the porous nature of Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, it is difficult for local authorities and security agencies to keep a full check on the movement of Afghan militants into the country. In 2003, around 246 Taliban were arrested inside a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, after getting wounded during fighting inside Afghanistan. "47 out of the arrested Afghani elements have been handed over to the Afghan government, while the remaining detainees are being investigated by the security apparatus."
American drone attacks in Pakistan often target members of militant groups (i.e. Haqqani network, Hezb-e-Islami, Taliban, al-Qaida, Chechens, and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) hiding in Pakistan's bordering tribal areas, near Afghan refugee camps. Several Afghan refugees have been accused or arrested by Pakistani authorities for being involved in terrorism-related activities inside Pakistan. The 2009 Lahore police academy attacks, which was blamed on Pakistani militant groups (Fedayeen al-Islam and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan), involved one Afghan who was given 10 years prison sentence. In the 2011 Dera Ghazi Khan bombings, a teenaged Afghan boy (Fida Hussain) from the tribal belt was arrested by police as a suspect. Some Afghans have been involved and caught while attempting to recruit and smuggle people for militancy in Afghanistan.
When commenting on Taliban activity in Pakistan, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, remarked that in order to curb illegal immigration and control law and order, Pakistan had stopped issuing visit visas to certain Afghan nationals and increased measures were being implemented to monitor illegal movement of refugees.
Pakistan has long sheltered Afghan refugees [but they are now acting] against Pakistan. (Afghan) nationals will not be allowed to carry out criminal activities (here). There will be complete restriction on the movement of Afghan refugees in Balochistan and K-P. We have given a one-month deadline to illegal immigrants to get their refugee cards. Otherwise, they will be arrested. Pakistan has also stopped issuing visit visas to Afghan nationals—Rehman Malik, September 2011
Following the Peshawar school massacre in December 2014, regarded as the deadliest terrorist incident in Pakistan's history, in which two Afghan militants were also involved, Pakistani authorities launched crackdowns on Afghan refugee settlements to apprehend illegal immigrants. During the period, at least 30,000 Afghans left for Afghanistan, out of which close to 2,000 were deported due to lack of legal documentation. As of February 2015 over 1,000 Afghans per day were reported to be returning to Afghanistan at Torkham Crossing.
The following list includes Afghan nationals living in Pakistan as well as Pakistani citizens who are of Afghan origin.
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