Future of Afghan Refugees; Post US-Withdrawal

In recent news, the US and coalition forces have decided to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan. Ultimately, they have now placed an end to the decades-long war. However, the US is still trying to figure out how to preserve its vital interests which are under the ambit of: political, economic and security gains. This war has resulted in the internal instability of Afghanistan. Resultantly, many Afghan citizens decided to live in exile, in the neighboring country, Pakistan. The Afghan refugees in Pakistan are the world’s biggest refugee community. Pakistan is housing Afghan citizens since the soviet-invasion.

Out of the 3 million Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan, only 1.4 million have been registered. After years of living in refugee camps, Afghan refugees are now hoping to find their way back home. From the Taliban rule to civil war to international interventions; everything has worked towards this catastrophe of people leaving their homes.

What Now?

As the troops leave, the future of Afghan refugees is now in question again. Whether they will be able to go back to their homeland or will the insecurities remain. Presently, there are two possibilities; either the Afghans move back or they pursue their lives in Pakistan as Pakistani citizens. To further clarify this, we need to see if the Afghan refugees even consider their homeland to be safe for them?  Undoubtedly, It was a difficult shift for the Afghans to move to Pakistan. Likewise, it would be equally difficult for them to move back after creating a life in Pakistan.

Unfortunately, as of now, Afghanistan is going through a tough change, it is primarily an aid-dependent economy. It needs to stand up on its own two feet before it can handle the influx of homebound refugees. To be fair, “Refugee” is not a permanent phenomenon. The displaced persons are expected to return to their homeland, once the situation is back to normal. It’s only fair to the people of Afghanistan if this label of “exile” and “refuge” is taken away from them.

Currently, the infrastructure in Afghanistan does not have the capacity to cater for its displaced citizens. It must be equipped in a way that meets the needs of the repatriating families. Similarly, it must effectively cater for the challenges that they might face during their resettlement. However, In the future, to ensure that the INGOs like the UN can provide necessary assistance, cross-border mobility between the states must be regulated.

The Survival Within

In the decades-long war, more than anything else, the Afghan refugees have suffered the most. It takes a lot for a person to leave everything behind; the Afghans have suffered and survived through it for many years. It is pretty clear that Afghans can’t go back to an environment that they once left. Therefore, better conditions must be ensured so that in the end, it all seems worth it. For Pakistan and Afghanistan, a people-centric approach is a solution to this. Authorities should keep the interests of Afghan civilians in mind before taking any strong decision. Every action will directly impact the lives of Afghan refugees. They need to know that their government has not disenfranchised them and that they still have a place to call home.

During the 2014 Presidential elections in Afghanistan, the Afghan refugees were not able to cast their vote, due to “not having sufficient resources”,  a reason cited by the Afghan election commission. The then provincial information minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province commented on this saying that; ‘this is merely just an excuse and every single arrangement could have been made. Denying them the right to vote to decide the future of their own homeland is no less than a human-right violation’.

The Future of Afghan Refugees

Lastly, it is risky to make decisions for civilians without a people-centric approach. Mistakes have been made in past but now it is the time to admit them and correct them. The right way to do it is to provide them with a safe and secure environment, both, in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Afghan Peace Process is a way forward for the repatriation of the refugees. Through economic opportunities, the issue of reintegrating the refugees can also be resolved. The Afghan refugees should feel like part of a community that they actually belong in. War and instability have been the two most common denominators throughout the past decades of Afghanistan’s history and it’s a hope for many that stability and peace will return to this land. The people of Afghanistan want to and have every right to be able to live freely, without any fear.


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