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the November 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 48,
Pakistan: Adding to Our Burden
Nation (conservative), Lahore, Sept. 19, 2001.
emanating from Afghanistan as well as from the Durand Line [the
border between Afghanistan and Pakistan] indicate that, in the days
to come, more will be added to the backbreaking burden on Pakistan,
which is already imposed by the more than 2 million Afghan refugees
currently being hosted here. Reportedly, the families of senior
Taliban leaders have already reached Peshawar.
Panic created by the looming prospect of [military] strikes inside
Afghanistan is leading thousands of people to seek refuge in neighboring
countries. Fearing that a new wave of refugees might create problems
for them, Tajikistan and Iran have sealed their borders. On Monday,
Pakistan also placed a ban on those intending to cross over from
the other side of the Durand Line, with or without valid travel
documents. The Northwest Frontier Province government also has suspended
the issuance of cross-border permits to refugees. Keeping in view
the porous nature of the border, however, and the fact that in many
cases tribes are settled astride it, it is impossible to seal it
completely. If the neighboring country is invaded, Islamabad will
come under increasing pressure from the general public in Pakistan
to allow entry to displaced Afghans on humanitarian grounds.
Soon after the rout and subsequent withdrawal of Soviet troops from
Afghanistan, Islamabad was left alone to cope with the aftereffects
of civil war. The United States, which had trained and armed the
anti-Soviet mujahideen to avenge its defeat in Vietnam, abruptly
turned its back on Afghanistan. Among other things, Pakistan was
required to look after the material needs of the refugees. The influx
of displaced Afghans gave birth to numerous social problems in the
host country. Trade in illicit arms and narcotics registered an
unprecedented increase after their arrival. Rivalry over social
infrastructure became a source of bitterness between the migrants
and local population.
The arrival of more refugees is bound to create new complications.
A sanctions-ridden and cash-strapped Pakistan simply cannot feed
hundreds of thousands of fresh arrivals. With its unemployment having
reached new heights, Pakistan is ill-equipped to provide any gainful
employment. Those forced to leave their hearths and homes are to
be thought favorably inclined to the United States and may join
the ongoing protests against possible attacks on Afghanistan. The
Northern Alliance, which is unfriendly to Pakistan, may send saboteurs
in the garb of refugees to undertake terrorist activities. Under
the circumstances, it is necessary to convince those planning to
undertake reprisals in Afghanistan to help Pakistan deal with the
consequences of their actions.