October 30, 2023
The Aurat March, a prominent women’s rights advocacy group in Pakistan, issued an urgent plea to Interim Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar and conducted sit-ins in four major cities of Pakistan on Sunday, vehemently denouncing Pakistan’s decision to expel and deport Afghan refugees
The active chapters of Aurat March in Karachi, Lahore, Multan, and Islamabad, demanded an immediate rescission of the 30-day deportation deadline, asserting that it not only violates international treaties but also undermines the fundamental principle of , which prohibits the forced repatriation of refugees to their home country.
Citing the 1993 Cooperation Agreement with UNHCR, the Aurat March underscored that Pakistan is bound by international law to collaborate with the UNHCR and uphold norms regarding refugee rights. This includes ensuring that any repatriation is voluntary and devoid of coercion and the current policy stands in direct contradiction to these well-established norms.
In a poignant appeal, the Aurat March underscored the human aspect of this issue, emphasising the chaos and devastation this policy would unleash on the lives and livelihoods of refugees who have woven themselves into the fabric of Pakistani society over the years.
Aurat March believes that many have never set foot in Afghanistan and possess minimal connections to the country. The sudden policy shift would also lead to the painful separation of families, as not all members are officially registered.
During the sit-ins, Aurat March highlighted that among those most at risk are human rights defenders, artists, and folk musicians, who would face grave peril if forcibly returned to Afghanistan. The dire conditions in Afghanistan, particularly the curtailed rights of women, place these refugees in imminent danger of severe human rights violations.
The Aurat March decries the policy as unconstitutional, asserting that decisions of this magnitude, affecting millions, exceed the purview of a caretaker government whose primary role is to oversee elections. They call upon the government to retract such unconstitutional measures.
Additionally, the press release shared by Aurat March condemns the widespread harassment and racial profiling of Afghans within Pakistan, including those with valid documentation. Disturbing reports have emerged of police officers seizing and destroying refugees’ Proof of Registration (PoR) documents for failing to comply with arbitrary demands, heightening concerns for the safety of these vulnerable individuals.
Refugees seeking to register for PoR cards have faced considerable delays, with numerous applications pending since 2021. The Aurat March demanded a streamlined registration process and expeditious issuance of cards for those in the queue, emphasizing the injustice of penalising refugees for the government’s inefficiencies.