Pakistan grants refuge to 46 Afghan soldiers; region braces for refugee crisis

Pakistan has said it had granted safe passage and refuge to 46 Afghan soldiers, including five officers, who sought refuge after the Taliban attacked outposts near the Chitral border

Jul 26, 2021
Image
Afghan soldiers

Pakistan has said it had granted safe passage and refuge to 46 Afghan soldiers, including five officers, who sought refuge after the Taliban attacked outposts near the Chitral border. They will be returned to Afghan authorities after due process, the Pakistan military said. 

“These Afghan soldiers arrived at Arundu sector, Chitral late last night. After contact with Afghan authorities and necessary military procedures, 46 soldiers including five officers have been given refuge [and] safe passage into Pakistan,” the Pakistan military was quoted as saying by Dawn. 

Fighting has been raging between Taliban insurgents and the Afghan government forces on many districts. The Taliban has been tactically targeting important border districts in an attempt to squeeze the Kabul government. 

Three weeks ago, over 1000 Afghan soldiers had fled across the border into Tajikistan and took refuge there. In the last two months, the insurgent group has taken control of several districts along the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border. 

In June, Uzbekistan, another Central Asian country that shares a border with Afghanistan, had returned 53 Afghan soldiers, who fled there after the Taliban attacks, to Afghan authorities. 

Security concern has been growing among Afghanistan neighbors as fighting escalates in the country. Earlier, Tajikistan had also returned hundreds of fleeing civilians back into the country. However, last week, it announced that it would accommodate up to 100,000 Afghan refugees provided they were given international assistance.

In sharp contrast with Tajikistan’s humanitarian approach towards refugees, Uzbekistan has warned that any illegal trespassing would be considered a security threat. 

Pakistan, which already hosts over two million Afghan refugees, is also bracing for a possible refugee influx. However, policymakers in Islamabad are yet to decide the best approach to deal with it. 

For Islamabad, there is also an added concern of TTP insurgents who might sneak into Pakistan by mingling among refugees.

Sweden and Finland this month stopped the forced deportation of Afghans amid a worsening security situation. Close to 7000 Afghans, with deportation orders issued against them, are currently living in Sweden. Last month,  the US had urged EU countries to stop the forced deportation of Afghans. 

 (SAM)