China can mitigate Afghanistan’s crisis amid Pakistan’s mass deportations

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China can mitigate Afghanistan’s crisis amid Pakistan’s mass deportations

KABUL, NOV 8: The Pakistan-Afghanistan border is currently witnessing one of the largest forced expulsions of people since the Second World War, as Pakistan’s decision to deport over a million Afghans threatens to exacerbate Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis and endanger thousands of lives. However, China, with a strategic interest in the region’s stability, could play a pivotal role in finding a solution to this unfolding crisis.

On October 3, Pakistan made the announcement that all illegal migrants and asylum seekers had 28 days to leave or face deportation, a decision primarily impacting the significant population of undocumented Afghans residing in Pakistan. As of the November 1 deadline, more than 60,000 Afghans had already been deported. Those who remained reported instances of coercion by Pakistani officials, as well as harassment, beatings, extortion, and detention.

The Taliban has expressed its condemnation of Pakistan’s move, calling for a reconsideration and emphasizing the principles of “good neighborliness, Islamic brotherhood, and humanity.” The United Nations has also voiced concern, warning of the potential for severe human rights violations, including family separations and the deportation of minors.

This sudden decision by Pakistan followed suicide bombings in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, resulting in the deaths of at least 57 people. While no specific group claimed responsibility, it appears that Islamabad is growing increasingly concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism after decades of hosting refugees from Afghanistan.

Recent UN data indicates that there are approximately 4 million Afghans in Pakistan, including 700,000 who fled after the Taliban’s resurgence. An estimated 1.7 million of them are in Pakistan illegally. Pakistan is one of the world’s largest hosts of refugees, with over 1.3 million registered refugees, 99 percent of whom are Afghans. Many Afghans have lived in Pakistan for years, some even decades, often lacking the means to seek asylum due to the absence of legal avenues or proper documentation. This has left them in a state of economic hardship with no access to essential services like health, education, or legal support.

For many Afghans, this situation remains preferable to returning to Afghanistan, which is currently grappling with one of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises. According to World Vision, over 29 million Afghan people are in need of humanitarian aid, with 15 million facing acute food insecurity, and nearly a million children under the age of five requiring life-saving treatment for malnutrition and starvation.

Given China’s strategic interests in regional stability and its potential to exert influence, it could play a vital role in pressuring Pakistan to reconsider or delay its deportation decision, thus contributing to a more humane solution that respects international law and eases the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.