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Pakistanis Become Refugees in Own Country

Published: 30/04/2012 04:18:30 PM GMT
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PESHAWAR - Once home of thousands of refugees from neighboring Afghanistan, the sprawling Jalozai camp has now become a home of thousands of Pakistanis displaced by fighting in the country's troubled tribal belt. We have b (more)

PESHAWAR - Once home of thousands of refugees from neighboring Afghanistan, the sprawling Jalozai camp has now become a home of thousands of Pakistanis displaced by fighting in the country's troubled tribal belt.

"We have become a shuttlecock between the security forces and Taliban," Pakistani farmer Abdul Sabur Khan told

"Both are penalizing us.

"Even if we offer a glass of water to Taliban, no matter willingly or forcibly, security forces make life hell for us. And if we give any favor to the security forces, then Taliban are very much there to treat you in the same manner," he said.

Abdul Sabur, a father of five, has migrated from Khyber agency in north-western Pakistan over the ongoing fighting between Taliban militants and security forces.

"Life has become extremely miserable there, which rendered us with no other option but to leave our homes and hearths, and look up for a place, where at least our lives are safe," he said.

Thousands of Pakistanis have fled their homes in the troubled tribal area on borders with Afghanistan over ongoing fighting between the Taliban and security forces.

Around 20,000 refugees have been registered during the past few months, mostly hailing from neighboring Khyber agency.

According to UNHCR, there is a 100 percent increase in migration from Khyber agency during last three weeks.

Nearly 150,000 people have so far migrated from the troubled agency and have either taken shelter at Jalozai camp or with their relatives in Peshawar and adjoining areas.

Some 8000 refugees from Mohmind and Bajur agencies have already taken shelter at Jalozai camp.


Sabahat Khan was among thousands of Pakistanis who fled their homes over the ongoing fighting.

"Taliban and security forces have been pounding each other incessantly for last many days, which has crippled the course of life in the area," Sabahat told

"Mortars landed near our house at least ten times a day."

The displaced Pakistani accused security forces of obstructing their migration from the area.

"Security forces have set up their pickets just outside our homes. We were not allowed to go outside even if we needed water and food," he said.

As security forces blocked their migration, Khan secretly fled the area with his family under the cover of darkness.

"We could take some cash, clothes, and other essential items with us," he said.

Security forces often clamp curfew in the area, which further adds to residents' hardships, preventing them from even moving patients to hospitals.

"If there is a blast, security forces start searching all the houses situated in neighborhood, which is another cause of anger among the local population," he said.


Even after fleeing, refugees live a miserable life in at Jalozai camp.

"I have been waiting for registration for last one week, but nobody is here to listen to me," an irate Abdul Sabur told

A large number of newly migrated refugees are still waiting for registration, which allows them access to accommodation, food, and other facilities.

Long queues of refugee, including children, are seen get food and fetch water at 14 different sections of the camp.

Each section consists of huge water tanks, and a long row of make-shift toilets-both for males and females.

Refugee families are provided with caches of flour, sugar, and other food items on weekly basis, however, many complain about shortage of food.

An aerial view shows a khakhi tent city sprawling over 5 kilometers with thousands of male and females engaged in routine business.

Eight schools have also been set up for imparting education to refugee children in different parts of the camp.

Located 30km east of Peshawar, Jalozai camp was set up in early 1980s for Afghan refugees, who had fled to Pakistan, mostly from northeastern Afghanistan following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The camp was barely closed in early 2009 after repatriation of many Afghan refugees and relocation of others.

Under an agreement between Pakistan and the UNHCR, a large number of Afghan refugees have opted for volunteer repatriation from 2004 to date.

However, many of them have returned due to poor law and order in most parts of northeastern Afghanistan, one of the epicenters of battles between US-led foreign troops and Taliban.

Noor Afridi, a displaced Pakistani, blames the camp administration for a discriminatory attitude towards refugees from Khyber agency.

"We are being discouraged by the camp officials to get registered here," he told

"But even if we managed to get registered, they are providing us much lesser quantity of food items than refugees from other areas."

When asked why he thought that, Afridi said “I don't know why, but whatever I have been facing, I have told you."

"Refugees from Mohmind and Bajur are being provided with a food package of 10 kg, whereas refugees from Khyber agency are receiving 3 to 5 kg packages," he said.

But camp officials deny the accusation, citing the paucity of funds as a major challenge.

"There is no discrimination vis-à-vis distribution of food," Muneer Khan, one of the camp officials, told

"They all are equal to us. But the shortage of funds has become a daunting challenge for us.

"We wish they all (refugees) go back to their homes before culmination of summer, otherwise things will further deteriorate as we don't have enough funds to cope with winter-related expenses."

Reproduced with permission from