The World According To...

Among the Afghan refugees in Mardan, northwest Pakistan

April 2000: Robert Fisk visits a refugee camp in Pakistan and speaks to those who managed to escape the Taliban

Saturday 12 February 2022 21:30
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<p>Afghan refugees stay outside their makeshift camps to feel the sun’s heat in Jalozai refugee camp near Peshawar</p>

Afghan refugees stay outside their makeshift camps to feel the sun’s heat in Jalozai refugee camp near Peshawar

Their camps are little Afghanistans, streets of mud and wattle huts, a wooden gate padlocked on to dry earth, a flurry of goats, wooden roofs overhanging earthen walls, a dust road and women who scurry into darkened rooms at the sight of a stranger. In the schools, the girls are taught, “Yak, du, se, char, panj, shash…”, chorusing the Farsi numerals from beneath a tent.

The United Nations would like them all to go home, all 1.2 million of them in Pakistan. In the UN compound in Peshawar – with its carefully laid out gardens and air conditioning – they run a “repatriation” programme to send the Afghans “home”. Travel to Jalalabad or Kabul and you’ll be given rupees, a blanket, food. But why do you need a “programme” if all is well in Afghanistan? It’s not, of course, as the UN well knows. If the Taliban have provided security, they have created a state without a government, a theocracy without a nation. So is it any “surprise that all these miniature Afghanistans have blossomed along the border with Pakistan?

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