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Socio-Economic Shifts in Balochistan Amid Afghan Deportations

The Hazara community in Balochistan, which witnessed a surge in numbers after the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul in August 2021, now faces a crisis. …reports Asian Lite News

In a recent policy shift, the deportation of undocumented Afghan citizens residing in Pakistan, which commenced in the first week of November, is leaving a lasting impact on the socio-economic dynamics, particularly in Balochistan, The News International reported.

The majority of those identified for forced repatriation were Pashtun, many of whom had seamlessly integrated into local Pashtun communities in the province. Their abrupt departure has not only disrupted their lives but also affected the communities that had embraced them.

The Hazara community in Balochistan, which witnessed a surge in numbers after the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul in August 2021, now faces a crisis. Fearful of a crackdown, undocumented Hazaras have left for Afghanistan, exacerbating concerns among those who had fled oppression by the Afghan Taliban, only to encounter new uncertainties, according to The News International.

The city of Quetta, home to a substantial Afghan refugee population, is particularly feeling the economic ramifications. Some refugees were integral to the city’s economy, contributing significantly as both labourers and consumers. Their departure has led to an economic downturn, despite some locals viewing the resulting drop in property values and rents as a silver lining. Overall, the sentiment in Quetta leans toward concern for the city’s economic future.

Chaman faces a stark situation, as people are now barred from crossing into Afghanistan without a passport for the first time in seven decades. This passport requirement has disrupted businesses and family connections, prompting an 18-day sit-in protest with tens of thousands participating against the introduction of a visa requirement. Attempts to disperse the protesters have so far been unsuccessful.

The social impact of the deportations is profound, with some Afghans leaving after being part of the society for many years, marrying, and developing community ties. The exodus has presented not only a logistical challenge but also a social upheaval.

Reactions to the deportation drive vary. Journalist Danish Murad in Quetta notes, “I have been told that the exodus of Afghan refugees will significantly affect Quetta. However, I have not noticed any difference. It seems that things remain as they were.”

Meanwhile, fabric merchant Hidayatullah observes a significant drop in customers. “Previously in the first week of the month, we had loads of people coming for shopping. After the deportations announcement, our shops have been deserted. There are no Afghan customers.”

The disruption may stress cross-border kinships, diminish cultural and social contributions refugees make to host communities, and potentially destabilise local economies that have adapted to include the labour and commerce of the refugee population.

Baloch nationalist parties, previously opposed to Afghan refugees, remain silent on the issue this time around, potentially avoiding association with the deportations.

Allegations suggest a large number of Afghans have been issued Pakistani identity cards. There’s speculation that in the next phase, these cards will be blocked and cancelled, posing a significant challenge as it could inadvertently affect Pakistani citizens in Balochistan. A careful and humane approach is paramount to prevent further disruption to the lives of both Afghan refugees and Balochistan’s citizens, The News International reported. (ANI)

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