Pakistan’s government took control of all the hotels in Islamabad on Thursday (Aug 26) in order to accommodate foreigners from Afghanistan. Reportedly, around 1,500 people evacuated from the war-torn land are to arrive in Pakistan on Friday (Aug 27), and an additional 1,000 are to arrive on each day for the next couple of weeks. The hotels will remain under the control of the government as long they will stay. According to reports, the government requested the hotels to close reservations for 21 days. The guests that are already checked-in in the hotels will stay at the time but the government can ask them to leave if more evacuees need space.
Who Are These Foreigners from Afghanistan?
The government said that the process of evacuation in Afghanistan is now moving quickly due to Thursday’s bombing of Kabul airport. The deadly attack claimed by the terrorist group ISIS killed 60 Afghan civilians and 13 soldiers that also included the US ones. The scenes of desperation can be seen in the entire country with people trying to escape the fearful regime of the Taliban.
Several have been killed during the exodus and many have become homeless. Those who managed to escape took any flight they could including the transits. Reportedly, people that are coming to Pakistan are also transit passengers. The government allowed them to stay in Islamabad until they can move to their destination countries.
Strict security protocols have been deployed in and around the hotels where foreigners from Afghanistan will stay.
Which Afghans are not Allowed in Pakistan?
On the other hand, thousands have been scrambling to get refuge somewhere. According to reports, there were already 2.5 million Afghan refugees and asylum seekers scattered across the countries. Now another 3.5 million have been forced to leave the devastated region. They usually flee to the neighboring countries to seek asylum but Pakistan has clearly refused to take any more refugees. According to the reports, Pakistan closed its borders to the refugees as violence across the border grew stronger in recent years.
A few days ago, hundreds of scared Afghans were desperate to cross the Torkham border but they could not enter. All border crossings are heavily manned with Pak-Taliban soldiers preventing Afghans from entering Pakistan. Taliban has also taken control of all the military checkpoints that were once used by the Afghan army.
The border is however open for trade and restricted pedestrian movement after a long and tiring vetting process. Pakistani government claimed that they have imposed these steps to prevent militants from invading disguised as civilians.
Why Pakistan Cannot Take More Refugees?
Pakistan increasingly fenced itself off from Afghanistan despite the growing violence. In 2016, Pakistan made it mandatory for Afghan travelers to have valid visas and passports. Critics argued that these people who became homeless because of war were uneducated unlike these foreigners from Afghanistan. It was impossible for them to get things like visas and passports.
People shared their experiences with the media as well. A tea stall owner near Torkham said he hosted escapees who were oppressed under Taliban rule for years but he didn’t see any more refugees after the Taliban took over the country.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also pleaded with Pakistan to let refugees in but the neighbor said it already exceeded its limit. Reportedly, Iran and Pakistan are the top two countries that have accepted the most Afghans.
Actually, there are more than 3 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan but half of them are not even registered. Meanwhile more and more are calling for Pakistan to let them come. Reportedly only the border crossing between Spin Boldak-Chaman is open for trade and movement of those people whose families are divided between both countries. Afghans can only enter Pakistan by showing documented proof of having a family or some medical treatment here. However, most of them have been reportedly using the help of smugglers to get in.
Just before the Taliban captured Kabul, around 21,000 people from Afghanistan managed to cross the border. It is still a mystery to many that how the Taliban can overcome the US and Afghan forces so easily.