War, violence, persecution and rights abuses have, over the years, forced people to flee their homeland around the world. There are other factors — like environment and climate change — that have displaced people from their homes. The global refugee population today thus stands in excess of 70 million, according to the UN. Of this staggering displaced population, more than a third — some 25 million people — have been forced to bid adieu to their own countries altogether. And of those displaced from their own countries, more than 11 million belong to Afghanistan, Syria and South Sudan — with Syrians being the largest forcibly displaced population in the world.
Pakistan borders a country that has one of the biggest refugee populations in the world i.e. Afghanistan. The people of Pakistan have played host to around four million Afghan refugees for about four decades. They have embraced the Afghans, fleeing a long-drawn war in their country, with open arms and exemplary generosity, and continue to do so despite huge economic hardships and a host of social and communal problems. There are still three million Afghan refugees in the country, including 1.4 million registered ones.
However, this generosity of us Pakistanis has only been acknowledged in words, and no countries of the world have stepped ahead to shoulder this huge burden that we have been carrying for decades over decades. At the first Global Refugee Forum held in Geneva, Prime Minister Imran Khan, as co-convener, spoke on the crisis and made it clear that Pakistan is in no position to accommodate any more refugees and that the “world must now step in”. He has also forewarned the world of the “biggest impending refugee crisis” in South Asia due to the fascist polices of the Indian PM whereby Kashmiris have been kept under a lockdown since August 5, the Muslim population in Assam has been deprived of Indian nationality, and the citizenship act introduced.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2019.