Politics of ethnicity, provincialism
THE Soviet invasion of Af ghanistan in the decade of 1980 has caused huge influx of Afghan refuges in Pakistan. There has been time that the total strength of the Afghan refuges crossed over to four million at a one particular time. Currently, there are over 2.6 million Afghan refugees residing in various parts of Pakistan, though the official figures are 1.6 million. Afghan refugees were allowed to take refuge in Pakistan in the decade of 1980 on humanitarian grounds, as there was an active war going on in Afghanistan between invading Russian forces and Afghan resistant groups, commonly known as Afghan Mujhadeen, who were supported by United States and its allies including Pakistan. In a way, it was a war between USSR and US. US covertly fought the war and was able to defeat and disintegrate the former Soviet Union in 1989/90.
Though Afghanistan is far from being stabalised, however, in the previous one decade, million of Afghan refugees have returned home, leaving behind the above mentioned registrated and unregistered number of Afghan refugees, still living in Pakistan. Pakistan has ensured best possible facilities for the Afghan refugees in all fields of life. Today in many parts of Pakistan, they are forming a sizable part of Pakistani business communities. The Government and the people of Pakistan gave them equal treatment as to the Pakistani nationals. Nevertheless, they are Afghan Nationals and were to go back at some point of time, therefore, few years back, Pakistan felt appropriate to send them back to their parent state to get settle and accrue the benefits of the international humanitarian assistance, being provided to Afghan Government.
The successive political Pakistani governments have not been firm to their decisions, hence continue extending the departure dates for the Afghan refugees under one or another pretexts. Very recently, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has extended the date, already set as June 30, 2016 for another six months. This undue liberal approach has brought into fore two aspects. One, lack of decision-making power and its upholding thereafter. Two; the political compulsions, the Government has from their ruling allies. Both these factors give rise to a feeling of perplex Government with fragile goverance and weakness, to the extent of being dictated. These aspects have created poor impression of the Government both at domestic level as well as at the global level.
Domestically, the so-called sympathisers of the Afghan refugees, having political alliance with the Government are continuously blackmailing it for not forcing the repartiation of the Afghan refugees on political and ethnic basis. Presence of Afghan refugees in some parts of Pakistan, especially Balochistan Province have been advantagious to a particular ethnopolitical group for making the demographic changes in the province and furthering political gains.
It was the same factor that impelled Mahmood Khan Achakzai, the Head of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party’s (PkMAP) to say that, “if Afghans are harassed in other parts of Pakistan, they should come here to KP, where no one can ask them for refugee cards, because it also belongs to them.” PkMAP secured 10 Provincial Assemly seat and three National Assembly seats in 2013 elections, compared to an ignorable strength of its winning candidates in the past general elections.
Though in a later interview, Mr Achakzai tried to dispell this impression, nevertheless, the fact remain that, he meant, what he said in his original statement. He would like the Afghan refugees to politically benefit his ethno-political party. His political thought is that, “the land between Oxus and Indus is the historical land of Pashtuns which was divided during successive attacks on Afghan territory and therefore currently is under the control of other nations.” In his opinion over the years, Pashtun nation has lost its land to other nations, may be owing to the lack of; “political consciousness, unity and national stance on collective issues.” Contrary to the people like Hamid Karazai, PkMAP leader is a strong advocate that, “Durand Line is an international issue.” He even considered it at par with Kashmir Dispute. In one of his recent interview, Hamid Karazai declared Durand Line as a local issue between Pakistan and Afghanistan, rather an international issue.
In the history of Pakistan, unfortunately, many ethno-political parties have their strong lineage and association with Kabul or New Delhi even at the cost of sovereignty and integriety of the state of Pakistan. At time, they have been following the dictates from these countries to the disadvantage of Pakistan. These aspects are regretable on one hand and raise questions about their alliances with ruling parties, somehow. These parties have been very critical to the role of Armed forces and intelligence agencies in the past in the issues of national interests of Pakistan. The major issues have been that, intelligence agencies and armed forces desire Pakistani national interests to be served while safeguarding its sovereignty and integriety, whereas these forces have their personal and party interests and may be the interests of Kabul and New Delhi. This clashing situation has created a dilema for the state and society of Pakistan.
In no way, the ethno-political interests of few groups should compromise the National Interests of Pakistan. The need of the hour is that, all political forces of Pakistan must promote unity, harmony and integriety among the Pakistani masses. Afghan refugees must go back to their homeland, as Pakistan is the homeland of Pakistani people. We have hosted them for decades now. The ethno-political parties must stop backmailing and exploitative form of politics. While being in Pakistan and Pakistani national, let us be Pakistani in essence. — The writer is International Relations analyst based in Islamabad.
In no way, the ethno-political interests of few groups should compromise the National Interests of Pakistan. The need of the hour is that, all political forces of Pakistan must promote unity, harmony and integriety among the Pakistani masses.