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Posts Tagged Afghan Refugees in Pakistan

The rising threat of terrorism and Afghan refugees in Pakistan

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Pakistan suffered a great shock with three major bomb attacks carried out in the country in the past month. In a recent attack, six people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up near the Lahore police headquarters. Less than two weeks ago, a Shia mosque in Peshawar was attacked during the Friday prayer (the most crowded time in a mosque), which killed 20 civilians and injured more than 50 people.

The Pakistani Taliban undertook both attacks. Mohammad Horasani, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, made a statement regarding the attacks and said the reason for the attack was the execution by the Pakistani government last December of Dr. Usman, who was said to be the mastermind behind the attack on the Pakistani Army general headquarters in October 2009. Horasani also said they would continue to take revenge and that these attacks were just the start.

The gradual increase in attacks that target civilians in Pakistan points to the possible chaos in the country, which is going through a very critical period in terms of security and stability. Less than a month ago, another Shia mosque in Shikarpur was attacked, and more than 60 civilians died. In another attack on a military high school in Peshawar on Dec. 16, more than 150 people were killed, including 134 children.

Following the attacks, the death penalty, which had been abolished several years ago, was reinstated and the militants who were held responsible for the military high school attack were executed. The main purpose of the attacks carried out by different groups in the Pakistani Taliban in the past month was to call the Pakistani government to account and take revenge.

It was declared earlier that a wing of the Pakistani Taliban paid homage to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). ISIL aims to increase its activities in Central Asia as well as in South Asia, another unstable, volatile region after the Middle East. The Pakistani administration has taken new measures in order to follow an active and effective policy against terrorist groups especially after the military high school attack. After reinstating the death penalty, the Pakistani government also established military courts to make an imprisonment sentence quicker and increased the number and expanded the area of attacks in particular in areas close to the border of Afghanistan.

However, these measures are problematic as they either focus on the expansion of current military operations or on the militants who have carried out the attacks. There is no policy aiming to prevent possible attacks and take pre-emptive action. Yet, there has to be efficient and effective policies that aim to deal with the daily problems of the Shiites and other religious minority groups such as discrimination and violence.

The Afghan refugees in Pakistan are one of the most affected groups from such attacks, which have increased gradually. These refugees, who had to flee Afghanistan due to the climate of war in the past 35 years and took refuge in Pakistan, have been experiencing hardship here but at the same time they live shoulder-to-shoulder with their Pakistani neighbors. In the wake of the recent attacks, Afghan refugees began to be exposed to violence and marginalization from Pakistani officials and their Pakistani neighbors. Even though the Pakistani Taliban carried out the military high school attack, two of the attackers were Afghan, and this is one of the main reasons there has been use of violence and anger towards Afghan refugees.

The recent attacks in the country brought the Pakistani government and the opposition together on the same page after a very long time. It is clearly very important to get wide public support on the measures taken and develop policies to fight against terrorism. However, it is also a serious issue that these decisions and their implementations should be “right” and inclusive and should not exclude and factionalize the Afghan refuges and religious minority groups. After all, Afghanistan is currently not capable of providing a peaceful and prosperous life for these people due to its unstable and unsecure environment.


*Salih Doğan is a research fellow at the Turkey Institute, a Ph.D. candidate at Keele University and a research assistant at Turgut Özal University.

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