By Amjad Ali
Peshawar, Pakistan, Nov 4 (EFE).- Asadullah Sadat and his family are hiding in northwestern Peshawar city from law enforcers who are detaining and deporting undocumented Afghans from Pakistan.
They fear that if they return to Afghanistan, the Taliban regime will execute them because some of their family member worked with the US army before the Islamist took over in August 2021.
“The Taliban will kill us if we go there, as they have done with so many other people,” Sadat told EFE in a tiny Peshawar flat.
In October, Pakistan issued an order mandating all undocumented foreigners to leave the country by Nov.1 or face deportation.
The order primarily targeted hundreds of thousands of Afghans who had fled their crisis-ridden homeland under the rule of the strict Islamist Taliban regime.
Islamabad alleged that Afghan soil was being used to launch subversive activities against Pakistan. “We are attacked from within Afghanistan, and Afghan nationals are involved in attacks on us. We have evidence,” said Federal Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti on Oct. 3, announcing the order for undocumented immigrants to voluntarily leave or face deportations.
Before the Nov.1 deadline, at least 140,000 Afghans returned to their country, despite concerns about an uncertain future in Afghanistan, which has been grappling with severe economic and social crises.
While Pakistan legally hosts 1.4 million Afghan refugees, it is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and lacks specific legislation for refugees. Nevertheless, an estimated 1.7 million undocumented Afghans live in Pakistan.
Sadat’s family is among those unable to prove their refugee status. Consequently, they live in fear with their suitcases packed, just in case law enforcement shows up at their home.
“Six days ago, police arrested me at a square for not having any legal documents,” said Sadat. “They let me go after I gave them 2,000 Pakistani rupees ($7) in bribery.”
With no sources of income, the family has been gradually selling jewelry and other valuable assets to survive with the bare minimum.
Sadat somehow managed to travel to Islamabad after the Taliban regained power in Kabul. The journey was never easy, as the family had to make continuous efforts to cross into Pakistan via Torkham, one by one, with months in between.
“I remember how my pregnant wife and I spent seven nights at the Torkham border waiting to cross into Pakistan,” he said.
When the family reunited in Pakistan after several months, their hopes of traveling to a third country or the US were dashed. However, Sadat’s brother, Rohullah, who worked as a translator for an American journalist, managed to flee to the US.
Sadat’s two brothers-in-law had worked with the United States Forces and the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan during the US invasion and a long-drawn war with the Taliban.
Sadat claimed that he, his father, and another brother were arrested and subjected to torture by the Taliban after foreign forces withdrew, leaving the country in the hands of the Islamist militia.
“They tied our hands with a wire. One of them hit my brother with a Kalashnikov rifle butt. He peed uncontrollably in his pants,” Sadat said.
Sadat, his brother, and his father were eventually released after local leaders intervened.
Sadat himself is a cancer patient, and he said his brother never fully recovered from the mental trauma and is currently receiving treatment at a Peshawar hospital.
Sadat also fears that the Taliban will force his daughter into marriage, as they have done with several girls in his home province of Faryab.
Faced with the prospect of certain execution in Afghanistan, the family now grapples with uncertainty in Pakistan as the government reaffirmed on Thursday that it would not reconsider its new anti-immigrant policy. EFE