Karachi: A slum on the outskirts of Pakistan’s populous metropolitan city of Karachi has seen an influx of Afghan families fleeing Taliban rule in conflict-torn Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province in recent days.
Located on the northern outskirts just off the super highway outside Karachi, there are Afghan basti (slums), which are made of concrete and mud houses and even families living in tarpaulin tents, and more displaced Afghan families. Arriving here. The Taliban occupied Afghanistan and also captured Kabul.
“We are not surprised and in the last two weeks we have around 500-600 families, which means around 4,000 to 5,000 people, including women and children, are joining us in the basti,” said Haji Abdullah, a There is an elderly Afghani, who is living here. Karachi since last 25 years.
“These families have nowhere else to go and mostly belong to various parts of Kunduz and other provinces where the Taliban have taken control. They have come through smuggling routes to the border areas of Balochistan,” he said.
Omar Tajik, who arrived in the Afghan settlement with his family of seven about five days ago, said people are fed up with what is happening in Afghanistan.
??There is no hope for us.
It doesn’t matter whether we have Hamid Karzai, Ashraf Ghani or the Taliban.
We haven’t lived a peaceful and prosperous life since the Russian invasion in 1979, ?? said the 50-year-old.
Some 200,000 Afghans live in slums, while the southern city of Karachi is also home to some 500,000 Afghan refugees, who mostly work as laborers in the city or run their own small shops and businesses in Pashtun-dominated areas.
Many of these Afghans are also affluent and run textile, construction and furniture businesses in the highlands of Karachi and also live in rented houses and apartments there.
Afghans in the settlement mostly speak Pashtun or Tajik, while some also speak the traditional Dari language.
They can be seen sitting together and chatting in groups in small tea shops and markets.
The main topic of discussion these days is the way the US withdrew its troops from Afghanistan, leaving the Taliban free to take over the country and whether the heavily armed radical Islamist group can bring peace to its country. .
“I don’t understand what these Americans have done.
For 20 years they fight against the Taliban and try to rule us through their elected governments.
Now that things started looking better, they left us and left us at the mercy of Talibanis, ?? Wearing a burqa and sitting on the ground with other women who had just arrived in Balkh province, mourning for Hafza Bibi, an elderly woman.
She recalls how the Taliban threw bombs at homes and how they escaped fighting between Taliban and Afghan forces.
“We feared for our lives and didn’t know what was going to happen so we took everything we could collect and ran on foot,” she said, as tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Only God knows if I will be able to return to my homeland again,” she said.
Many Afghans who met this reporter in Karachi and in the slums had only one question: Why did the Americans leave people at the mercy of the Taliban? They were also unsure of what was going to happen in their homeland.
The precarious situation in Afghanistan for the past 20 or more years has prevented thousands of Afghan refugees in Pakistan from returning home and instead choosing to live in refugee camps.
There are approximately 2.8 million documented and undocumented Afghan refugees in Pakistan, making it the world’s second largest refugee population after Syrians in Turkey.
Only half of the refugees are registered, the rest living without documents, mostly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces, which border war-torn Afghanistan.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 4.4 million refugees have been repatriated to Afghanistan since 2002, but many have returned to Pakistan due to ongoing violence, unemployment and lack of education and medical facilities.
Hamza Gul, who came to Karachi from the central province of Parwan after the US invasion in 2001, watches as a civil war erupts in his country.
“Afghanistan has changed over the last 20 years and I don’t think the Taliban will be able to rule like they did last time by force. Many Afghan youth today are educated and have the political will, so there will be conflicts,” he said. noted.
Afghan settlement commissioner Salim Khan said he was expecting more Afghan families as thousands are fleeing conflict in Afghanistan.
“Even if they come here illegally, we are doing whatever we can to accommodate them. Many of the families who reach here already have relatives in Karachi,” he said.
The biggest concern for Khan is ensuring that slum children and youth have access to education and other skill development programmes.
Aiman Mustafa, who runs an NGO for street children, said that due to the increasing population of Afghans in Karachi, many children are working as manual scavengers, laborers or resorting to criminal activities.
“The concern is that these Afghan youths may be used by criminal gangs for drug trafficking and also by some religious madrasas for extremism,” Mustafa said.
With only five secondary and primary schools and about 20 religious madrasas operating in the area, a government official acknowledged that the future is not so bright for young Afghan refugees.
But Salim Khan said that refugee children also have access to government schools across Pakistan, including Karachi, and the government is launching several skill development and scholarship programs for them.
“We know that there is no chance of these families returning to Afghanistan in the near future,” he said.
A few miles away from the Afghan settlement, on the outskirts of Karachi is another area known as the Asif Colony, which is also home to several Afghan families.
Many Afghan children and youth in the region who were born in Pakistan barely speak Dari or Pashtun languages and converse fluently in Urdu, the national language of Pakistan.
“This is a dilemma for us. We are living in Pakistan for the last 30-35 years. Our children and youth born here have basically no identity. They have never seen Afghanistan and don’t know why there for so many years. There is a conflict going on in the country,” said Nabi Hassan, who has been living in the Afghan settlement with his extended family since 1995.
He said, “We came here in 1996 before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan for the first time. My father and I are all longing to go back to our ancestral home in northern Baghlan province. We would like to be buried in our homeland.” “