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Pakistan police outrageously mistreat Afghan refugees: HRW report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Antonio Guterres, the head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), center, looks on during a visit to the UNHCR repatriation center in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on June 23, 2015. (AFP photo)

Human Rights Watch says living conditions have worsened for the Afghan refugees who were forced from homes after a deadly 2014 attack on a school by the Taliban militants in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar.

The New York-based HRW said in its recent report, ‘What Are You Doing Here?’: Police Abuses against Afghans in Pakistan, that senior authorities in Islamabad must take serious steps 'to end police threats and violence against its approximately three million Afghan refugees.'

“The Pakistani police's outrageous mistreatment of Afghans over the past year calls for an immediate government response,” the report said, adding, “The Pakistani government should press the police to apprehend perpetrators of atrocities instead of scapegoating the entire Afghan community.”

Official figures show that over 65,000 Afghans have been driven out of Pakistan since the start of 2015.

This photo taken on March 10, 2015 shows Afghan refugees attending a class at a rehabilitation center in Peshawar. (AFP photo)

The rights group said Afghan refugees have come under scrutiny following the Taliban massacre in the troubled city of Peshawar late last year. The city suffered its worst ever act of terrorism in December last year, when a group of pro-Taliban militants mounted an attack against Peshawar’s Army School, where about 150 people, mostly children, were killed.

“This oppressive situation has prompted large numbers of Afghans to return to Afghanistan, where they face a widening conflict and continuing insecurity,” the HRW said.

Elsewhere in its report, the HRW stated that senior Pakistani authorities had assured that there would be no retaliations against the country’s Afghan population in response to the deadly Peshawar attack. “Despite that promise, Pakistani police have pursued an unofficial policy of punitive retribution that has included raids on Afghan settlements; detention, harassment, and physical violence against Afghans; extortion; and demolition of Afghan homes.”

The report also added that police mistreatments and restrictions have resulted in economic hardship and curtailing access to employment and education.

Phelim Kine, the deputy Asia director at HRW, says Islamabad needs to devise a strategy which could continue to guarantee the rights of Afghan refugees. “The Pakistani government needs to develop a long-term strategy that emphasizes the protection of its Afghan population rather than pursue a vindictive punishment policy that is as unlawful as it is inhumane.”

Afghan refugees load their belongings at a refugee camp in Peshawar on May 1, 2015. (AFP photo)

Thousands of people have fled Afghanistan over the past years of war, with a majority of them taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan.

The refugees who remain are routinely accused by authorities of harboring militants.

However, the Pakistani government says a slash in the UN funding for refugees has triggered numerous problems for millions of Afghan refugees across Pakistan.

In October, the UN Refugee Agency, said aid programs for millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan were being slashed amid the worst funding shortfall for a generation. The UNHCR in Pakistan has received only USD 33.6 million for 2015 out of its annual budget of USD 136.7 million.

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