As American and NATO soldiers are departing from Afghanistan and the Taliban are gaining more territory, a migratory flood to Pakistan is inevitable. But this time, Islamabad seems not willing to open its borders and, if the case so needs of Islamabad, seems willing to think of “The Iranian model.”
“We chose not to open up our refugee border; assistance agencies on the other side may also help people who are in need,” stated Sheik Rashid Ahmed, the interior minister.
“But, if things deteriorate, we will create border villages that are strictly checked and monitored, banning migrants from entering the mainland,” he continued.
“It would even adapt the Iranian model to confine and properly manage migrants in these camps.”
In the eighties, there were roughly 800,000 Afghanistan refugees in Iran, according to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), but they were all compelled to stay in Teheran-style refugee camps close to the Afghan frontier to prevent their settlement in urban and city centers.
On the other hand, a top official in the administration said that the issue was being addressed on Sunday night by Prime Minister Imran Khan with Iranian president-elect Ebrahim Raisi.
PM Khan expressed worry about the deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan as he congratulated Mr. Raisi on his election triumph, and said the effects might be felt in Pakistan and Iran.
“Being spoken about Afghanistan, both parties agreed to work on Iran’s model,” he said, adding, “it was decided to visit Iran soon to understand the effective implementation of a high-level team of officials from the interior ministry, security agencies, and other competent departments.”
There are now two main frontier crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan: Chaman in Balochistan and Torkham in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa plus several smaller commercial posts. Most of the Afghan border was fenced and it was impossible for illegal transit.
The Chief Commissioner for Afghan Refugees, Saleem Khan, stated that the situation on the border was not at present worrying at all, but would alert Islamabad if it worsened.
Mr. Khan stated that although Pakistan has been a decent neighbor for more than four decades, housing more than three million Afghan refugees, despite not being a party to the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees or the 1967 Refugee Protocol.
The Head Commissioner remarked that “it’s also praiseworthy that in Pakistan there has been no friction between Afghan refugees and locals; all refugees in government clinics and schools are treated equally in Pakistan.”
“At several Pakistani sports schools and sports centers, there are even international cricket players in Afghanistan that have mastered the game,” he added.
Saleem Khan feels that after all the stakeholders, including the provinces, are engaged, a comprehensive strategy should be established.
Officials from many provinces, including Gilgit-Baltistan, voiced concern but declined to identify the influx of Afghans into their areas.
The Gilgit Baltistan Assembly elected delegate remarked, “Our worst concern is that Afghans might contribute to the power of the sectary militants, who have been defeated by the army.”
A cabinet member in the government of Sindh stated similar feelings that most migrants would come to Karachi, but the city had already overburdened its municipal infrastructure, where numerous districts had problems with peace and order.
One senior source, though, said there were several other aspects to be considered, while Pakistan was worried about the humanitarian issues in the area, notably Afghanistan.
“Any choice to let Afghans who are fugitive must be regarded isolating and must retain an acknowledgment of our economic and political condition, social elements, and security issues before we take any decision.