New York-based Human Rights Watch alleges police abuses against Afghan refugees in Pakistan have “skyrocketed” during the past year. The HRW report calls for Pakistan to act decisively to end what the rights group terms the “rampant police harassment.”
HRW describes the situation for Afghans residing in Pakistan as “increasingly precarious.” The international rights defender says it based its findings on interviews with refugee families, including those who had returned to Afghanistan.
The HRW report says hostility toward the Afghan community is not new in Pakistan, but increased dramatically after last December’s militant attack on a school in Peshawar that killed 145 people, mostly children. It says since then, Pakistani police have carried out raids on Afghan settlements, detained, harassed, and beaten Afghan men, extorted bribes and demolished homes.
Pakistani Taliban blamed
Authorities have blamed Afghanistan-based fugitive leaders of the outlawed Pakistani Taliban group for sending the attackers from across the border, including Afghan militants.
There was no immediate comment from the Pakistani government about the HRW report.
But U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Duniya Aslam Khan acknowledged the difficulties facing Afghan refugees since the school attack.
“Specially, in the first quarter of the year, Afghan refugees as well as undocumented Afghans, were frequently arrested and detained during security operations throughout the country," she said. "We also received some information of evictions from their places of residence and also some of them reported they faced the extortion and other forms of harassment by law enforcement authorities, including during their repatriation travels to Afghanistan.”
There are 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan who fled conflict and repression in Afghanistan starting in the late 1970s. Another estimated one million are in Pakistan illegally.
Pakistani authorities say they want undocumented Afghans to return home. At the end of this month, the government in Islamabad is expected to announce whether it will extend a December 31 deadline for the registered Afghans to legally stay in Pakistan.