By Seymur Mammadov
Afghanistan, as before, remains one of the most explosive regions on the political map of the world. In a country plagued by war and instability for 40 years, people fear becoming victims of suicide bombings and do not know what awaits them the next day.
Many Afghan officials and the Afghans themselves believe that regional and extra-regional players bear responsibility for the endless attacks of terrorists and instability in the country. And there are still no definite answers to such questions as to when the long-awaited peace and stability in Afghanistan will come when the Afghan refugees will finally be able to return from Pakistan and Iran to their homeland.
Millions of Afghan Refugees in Pakistan are living bridge between the two Nations
Afghan Refugees in Pakistan:
Afghan refugees found themselves outside their country not because of the sweet life in their host countries, but even when they were in a foreign land, they did not lose faith in life and the hope of returning to their homes.
The reason is that Kabul was lucky that they have reliable neighbors who showed a sense of regional solidarity and extended a helping hand precisely at the time when Afghanistan faced both internal and external challenges. Among all the neighbors of Afghanistan, it is Pakistan that most clearly stands out in terms of providing asylum to Afghan refugees. There are several factors here.
The first important factor is the inevitable geographical proximity, that is, of all neighbors, the largest land border of Afghanistan with Pakistan (the length of the borders of the two countries is 2430 km).
The second important factor, which is skeptical in Europe, is tolerance, multiculturalism. The state of Pakistan, as well as the whole Pakistani people, considered it their duty to render all possible assistance and support their neighbors – refugees from Afghanistan. It is possible that migrants and refugees are oppressed, discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity and other reasons in Europe, but not in Pakistan, on the contrary.
Islamabad never considered the burdensome to provide asylums of Afghan refugees on its territory. Imagine that at the end of 1988 alone, about 3.3 million Afghan refugees were accommodated in 340 refugee camps along the Afghan-Pakistani border at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
According to the International Organization for Migration, there are currently 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees and another 1.1 million unregistered, undocumented, or in the process of being registered in Pakistan. One of the priority tasks of the migration policy of Pakistan is the return of all Afghan refugees to their homeland. Unfortunately, the refugee repatriation program was temporarily suspended due to COVID-19. However, before the coronavirus pandemic spread, only in January 2020, 679 former migrants left Pakistan, of which 665 arrived in Afghanistan as part of the repatriation program, the remaining 14 were deported.
The Pakistani people with understanding and respect for the Afghan refugees, as illustrated by the factor of integration of Afghans in the socio-cultural sphere of the country. However, it is not superfluous to remind how the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, said that the Afghan refugees and host countries established closer ties in various areas of life. “This is a wonderful relationship that will continue,” he said. The prime minister added that one of the “positive side effects” was that Afghan refugees learned cricket from Pakistanis.
It is also important to note that due to historical, ethnic and linguistic ties, refugees from Afghanistan easily adapted to local customs and culture. An increasing number of Afghan refugees speak the Pakistani national language, Urdu. For many, it is a second or third language and they speak Urdu fluently.
Many Afghans born and raised in Pakistan identify themselves as Pakistanis and consider Pakistan their homeland and home. They celebrate national holidays and other events, including celebrations associated with Pakistan Independence Day. Along with this, representatives of the Afghan community of Pakistan carefully respect their cultural values, observe Afghan traditions and customs, despite the long years of hostilities, the difficult socio-economic conditions, and instability that prevail in Afghanistan.
All this clearly indicates that the Government of Pakistan has created for the refugees from Afghanistan all the necessary conditions for the Afghans to maintain their ethnic roots, their identity, and not lose their identity. In a tolerant country like Pakistan, Afghan refugees have never been discriminated against, they have not felt vulnerable and unprotected, on the contrary, in Pakistan they feel at home, safe.
The warm and fraternal welcome that Pakistan is giving to its neighbor does not go unnoticed by the international community. Pakistan’s comprehensive assistance to Afghan refugees is recognized by the international community. So, at the February summit on refugees in Islamabad, leaders noted the generosity of Pakistan and Iran in hosting Afghans and called on other countries to do more to support them.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “For four decades, Pakistan has been providing refuge to refugees from Afghanistan. This “anniversary” testifies to the manifestation of the best human qualities – solidarity and compassion.”
He praised and expressed gratitude to Pakistan for its efforts and willingness to accept the neighbors who were in trouble and create the necessary conditions for them to live.
Today, Pakistan has taken on a heavy load and for decades it has borne this burden without any outside help.
Pakistan is known for many refugee rights initiatives. These include biometric registration, refugee access to national education and health systems, as well as measures to integrate refugees and create conditions for their economic independence.
These initiatives, which appeared many years ago, led to the Global Refugee Treaty, which is partly aimed at easing the burden on host countries and increasing the self-reliance of refugees. Other countries should also participate in this humanitarian campaign. The international community should take a step forward and provide support to Afghan refugees, for example, implement social projects, including in the cultural and educational fields.
Afghan Peace Initiative:
On the other hand, in parallel with the provision of assistance to Afghan refugees, the Government of Pakistan is promoting a peaceful settlement in neighboring Afghanistan.
On June 9, 2020, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of Pakistan General Qamar Javed Bajwa along with Director General ISI Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed held excellent talks in Kabul with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation of Afghanistan.
Welcoming Pakistan’s CoAS, Gen. Qamar J. Bajwa to @SapedarPalace, we held productive talks & stressed on the unique opportunity to further the cause of peace in AFG & stability in the region as the HCNR & Afghan leaders take necessary steps toward intra-Afghan negotiations. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/PeekCZbSRO
— Dr. Abdullah Abdullah (@DrabdullahCE) June 9, 2020
Pakistan has been performing its historic role for peace in Afghanistan for decades and because peace in Afghanistan will ensure peace in Pakistan which had gone through a horrific wave of terrorism in which over 75,000 Pakistani lost their lives and this wave of terrorism was very much linked with Pak-Afghan bordering areas those were safe havens for terrorists. Pakistan spent energies to tell stakeholders that dialogue was the only way out from a civil war in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s constant support helped to sign Afghan Peace Deal in Doha.
Pakistan’s importance for peace in the region can be gauged by the fact that US representative Ambassador Khalilzad visited Pakistan 13 times since Sept 2018. He held detailed talks with COAS of Pakistan Gen Bajwa also on June 8, 2020—-a day before COAS of Pakistan held meetings with Afghan leadership in Kabul.
Afghan media reported that Afghan President Ghani during the meeting praised the role of Pakistan in establishing peace in Afghanistan, saying that peace is impossible without the active support of Islamabad.
Pakistan has been a peacemaker in Afghanistan for decades and plays an important role in the peace talks in Afghanistan, and makes a great contribution to peacebuilding not only in the Asian region, but and all over the world. Khalilzade himself said on April 30, 2019, that Pakistan supports efforts to accelerate intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations and is helping to reduce the level of violence in Afghanistan. The United States finally listened to Pakistan’s many calls for the necessity of holding peace talks. And as a result, the first practical result was achieved in this direction – at the end of February, the United States and the Taliban signed a historic peace treaty providing for the gradual withdrawal of US forces and the international coalition from Afghanistan.
Afghan Peace Spoilers:
Against the backdrop of all this positive work of Pakistan, unfortunately, some forces both in the West and in Asia are trying to present Islamabad’s good intentions in a negative light.
As the United States, the Afghan government, and Taliban are reaching near Peace, spoilers have intensified terror attacks, and Daesh also known as Islamic State is on a killing spree. Regional experts believe that Daesh wants to send a message that Peace in Afghanistan is not possible. The world needs to look who is behind Daesh and what are their designs to spoil long-awaited Peace in Afghanistan.
Peace in Conflict zones is must for Peace in the World:
Peace of the world is linked with peace in all conflict zones, particularly in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and at all such places where crumbling states encourage jingoism and lands to become safe havens for terrorists. Extremism and radicalism are the bitter harvests of conflicts that emerged after the early 80s in the world and are still targeting humanity at large.