June 20, 2023

By Maryam Missal


Afghan journalists seeking refuge in Pakistan are calling for the guarantee of their fundamental human rights this World Refugee Day.

According to data by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Pakistan is currently home to 3.7 million Afghan refugees, of which only 1.3 million are registered with the agency.

The Guardian reports that approximately 200 journalists have fled Afghanistan due to militancy, and are seeking sanctuary in Pakistan.

Mahmood Kochai, a senior Afghan journalist who worked as a correspondent for the BBC for nearly 22 years, told Voicepk.net that others like him are unable to work as they have not been given a work permit. He also added that they are living in fear in Pakistan, as they are still waiting for extensions on their visas which they applied for long ago.

“Our lives are in grave danger in Afghanistan. If we are deported, believe me, we will not survive,” he said.

Iqbal Khattak, director of Freedom News Network, told Voicepk.net that Afghan journalists in Pakistan are being made to face deliberate obstacles, which has rendered them unable to make ends meet.

According to a study by Freedom Network, the inability to register with UN programmes, which prevents them from receiving any financial benefit, is the most significant issue facing Afghan journalists in Pakistan. The other two issues are difficulty obtaining a work permit and acquiring a visa.

Khattak believes that this discrimination may be due to the government’s concern accomodating the few will encourage more Afghans to seek refuge in Pakistan.

“At least help those who are currently in the country for the sake of human rights…”

Khattak urged.

Kochai criticized the Pakistani Government’s lack of effort in assisting Afghan refugees, claiming that they have yet to receive any assistance from them. He also implored the authorities to at least extend their visas or direct the police to abstain from detaining Afghan refugees, particularly journalists.

Since the fall of Kabul in August 15, 2021, the Taliban government has been cracking down against journalists critical of their governance.

“Every journalist who immigrated to this country did so because of the fear of the current regime in Afghanistan, as they published works against them and criticized their work,”

he said.

June 20 is observed as World Refugee Day. The theme for 2023 is “Hope away from home”.

Afghan journalists deny receiving any support from the UN itself, according to first-hand experiences of Afghan journalists in Pakistan.

“Every time we visit (the UNHCR), they make excuses. Sometimes they say that their offices are closed, sometimes they do not answer the phone. And they do not give anyone time for interviews,” Kochai lamented.


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