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Pakistan, Afghanistan relations – From welcome guests to the hunted foes

By Abul Hasan, (ViewsHeadlines)

Afghan refugees in Pakistan were greeted with warm smile, handshakes. Best form of hospitality was showered over them merely two decades ago. But things seem to have completely changed and they are no longer welcome in Pakistan.

From Karachi to Lahore and even in FATA and Baluchistan, the Afghans are being hunted and deported. While still a large number of Afghan refugees are living across Pakistan, many on fake identity papers, the government of Pakistan and its intelligence agencies are on their trail, hunting for them everywhere.

After a spate of bombings in the last two weeks –the one at Lal Shahbaz Qalandar dargah in Sehwan town of Sindh that killed close to a hundred people –the hunt has begun with a renewed vengeance.

pakistan afghanistan griendship gate

Following the bombings in Lahore in Punjab and Sehwan Sharif in Sindh, Pakistan has begun a massive crackdown against terrorists, even going to the extent of bombing terrorist camps in Afghanistan. Pakistan has also sealed its border with Afghanistan at Chaman and shoot-at-sight orders have been issued for those found trying to cross over. This is probably the first time that such order have been issued for a nation that Pakistan once thought its own backyward.

It must be an irony of sorts that the Friendship Gate was closed on Friday as part of tightening security in the wake of the suicide attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan town of Sindh in which nearly 90 people lost their lives and over 340 others suffered injuries. As a result, traffic and transit trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan also remained suspended.

There are signs that the friendship gate may transform into an animosity gate in the days to come. “Shooting order has been issued to the security forces for those…found trying to enter…Pakistan illegally from any area of the border,” security officials said. “The Friendship Gate at Pak-Afghan border [has been] sealed for [an] indefinite period,” a Frontier Corps spokesman said. “There will be no traffic between Pakistan and Afghanistan for an indefinite period,” border officials said.

The vigil at Pakistan-Afghanistan border is at its highest in recent years right now. Official sources said that after the recent bomb blasts in Quetta, Lahore, Peshawar and Sehwan more FC troops have been deployed along the border with Afghanistan.

The biggest casualties in the whole mindless anti-Afghan operation are Afghan refugees or muhajireen that were once brought to the Pakistan with American dollars and Saudi riyals.

Sana Alimia while writing in Dawn says, “This week the Human Rights Watch reports that in the second half of 2016, deportation threats and police abuses pushed out 365,000 of Pakistan’s 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees and over 200,000 of the country’s estimated one million undocumented Afghans. This is a process that has been building up for a number of years. It intensified after the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan’s 2014 Army Public School attack in Peshawar”.

She goes on to add, “The bloody wave of terrorist attacks in Sehwan Sharif, Lahore, Quetta and Peshawar this week has seen claims of TTP sanctuaries inside Afghanistan resurfacing. The presence of TTP bases in Afghanistan, however, do not justify attacks on Pakistan’s Afghan population — most of it has lived in Pakistan for nearly 40 years. One cannot forget that Afghans have also been killed and maimed in terrorist attacks in Pakistan”. But sane voices in Pakistan are few and many are demanding all out war against terrorist organizations and complete expulsion of Afghan refugees from Pakistani soil.

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