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Afghan refugees narrate stories of escape to Pakistan

28 Aug, 2021
These refugees left everything behind in Afghanistan in the hope for a better future. Photo by author
These refugees left everything behind in Afghanistan in the hope for a better future. Photo by author

By Mirwais Kakar

At least 700 Afghan refugee families have arrived in Quetta by crossing Chaman border which is one of the main border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan as the future of Kabul seems bleak to its residents.

Narrating their stories, a member of one of the families told me that while crossing the border, Pakistan security personnel charged them Rs3,000 per person. “We have to give them money to save our lives as we have no choice," he said, adding he wanted to save his family and feed them.

It was heartbreaking to see the stateless people, who are empty-handed, living in miserable conditions at the outskirts of Quetta as they have left Kabul which is now swiftly taken over by the Taliban.

Some of them are lucky to take shelter in the homes of their relatives who live in the provincial capital of Balochistan as they have migrated to Pakistan earlier. Meanwhile, countless others have no choice but to live under the open sky.

It takes them weeks to reach Quetta from Helmand and other provinces of Afghanistan on foot because of transportation issue, however, usually it takes a day or two to reach the same destination.

In an attempt to escape from the violence which was going on between the Taliban and Afghan forces, the families first moved to places they considered safe. Later, they started their journey to Pakistan in which they lost relatives too.

They left homes with a pair of clothes as they were unable to carry heavy backpacks due to the long journey on foot.

Another couple arrived in Quetta from Lashkargah a few days ago. They were expecting a baby. They went to see a local doctor who asked them Rs5,000 for delivery. However, the couple couldn’t manage to pay the amount and the baby died inside the womb in a few days.

The unborn baby’s father told me that his dead child was lucky as she/he didn't have to experience the miseries of the ongoing situation.

A teenager narrated his story that his father died in a bomb blast. He was a rickshaw driver in outskirts of Kandhar and the sole breadwinner of the family.

He tried his luck to cross the border as after the death of his father the child’s uncle supported his five nephews and nieces and sister-in-law for a month. Later he refused to bear their expenses.

This raised a question that a lot of widows whose husbands have died in the violence are the responsibility of their extended families. But for how long they will support these women?

In tribal areas of Afghanistan, women are preferred to be kept at home away from the sight of men. It is considered a harm to honour of men, if the women of their family were exposed to other men.

However, I met a person who insisted me to visit the place where he along with his family members were staying and take the pictures of women and children. He wanted to compromise his honour and show the miseries they were facing to the world.

I asked them about the plans to go back to Afghanistan as the Taliban has announced amnesty for all and the fighting in the country has halted.

“We don’t have anything in Afghanistan. People have started looting our valuables when we left our homes in search of a safe place,” one of the refugees said.

The writer is human rights activist based from Ziarat and tweets at @Mirwaiskk