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Pakistan is losing four decades goodwill of Afghans

Disclaimer: This article was first published elsewhere and is republished here with recommendation and full permission of the author.

By Mushtaq Rahim

The events of late 1970s ensued mass exodus of Afghans to the neighboring countries. The greater portion of refugee migration of large displacement caused by Russian invasion of 1979 took place to Pakistan. Afghans continued to seek refuge in Pakistan throughout 80s as war intensified between the Pakistan based Mujahedeen groups and Russian invaders partnering communist regime of Kabul. Early 90s witnessed collapse of state regime after departure of Russians in 1988 from Afghanistan followed by civil war in the country. The civil war of 90s caused another surge of mass migration to Pakistan.

The first wave of refugees in early 80s comprised of people considering Pakistan their sympathiser. At that time, Islamabad, with financial support from the United States and Saudi Arabia, provided sanctuaries to Afghan Jihadi groups fighting the communist Regime and Russian forces. The partnership was so strongly bonded that many Afghans and even Pakistani civil and military officials termed Afghan resistance against Russians defence of Pakistan and publicly took pride in their alliance.

The second wave of migration, however; comprised mainly of people who considered Pakistan their nemesis. Many Afghan politicians and officials of the toppled regime had to seek refuge in a country that had backed militancy against their government. This group too, with passage of time, disposed off their hatred and the sense of antipathy was replaced by neutrality. The generation arising from the second wave of refugee migration got molded in the shape of migrants of early 80s and as such had a sense of belonging and affection towards Pakistan.

The cohabitation of the refugees and host communities created affinity between people of the two countries. The refugees, mainly concentrated in Peshawar and Quetta, shared communities with their hosts, worked with and for them and even established their own businesses besides partnering with hosts at most of the times. The Pakistani educational institutes accommodated Afghans from primary to higher education while Afghans also established their own educational institutes. During the later years, Peshawar and Quetta based refugees extended their presence to the business hubs such as Karachi and Lahore. Many inter-community marriages further strengthened connection between hosts and refugees.

Pakistani state machinery, in the meantime, marshaled all external interferences in Afghanistan throughout last four decades starting in mid-70s. Islamabad provided safe havens to a handful of militants and equipped them to fight state regime in 1975. The interference further expanded after Moscow chose to invade Afghanistan in December 1979. Russian invasion provided the USA an opportunity at the peak of cold war avenge Vietnam defeat and for the same purpose it persuaded Saudi Arabia to support Pakistan lead fight against state regime in 80s. After departure of Russians, the USA and other international stakeholders of Afghan conflict turned their back on the country. Nonetheless, Islamabad continued to boss over Afghan groups in a bid to establish a hegemony on its western neighbors. Following outbreak of civil war, Pakistan provided patronage to Taliban regime and remained tactical godfather of the movement which continues to this day.

After all meddling that destroyed Afghanistan, the generation that grew-up during refuge maintained strong affection for the country. The longstanding and extended cohabitation created a strong sense of belonging for Afghans neglecting what was being done to their country. In the meantime, they always tried to find other avenues for placing blame for the misfortune of their country.

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