Illustration by Zehra Nawab
Illustration by Zehra Nawab

I was in Kabul when the tanks first rolled out on its rutted streets, a dead body in their path marking the demise of a fragile state. I was in Jamrud when they first came, carrying their wealth in woven woolen khurjeen balanced across pack animals, babies straddled across donkeys, women veiled, children bedraggled and barefoot. We – the citizens of a state which collaborated with the Central Intelligence Agency to destroy their country – enjoyed the ethnic jewelry and antique fabrics which were sold across the country in expensive boutiques — the last bits of an old life sold off to finance another life in the misery of refugee camps huddled amidst dust and despair.

Also read: Closing the gates of Lahore — Pakhtuns and Afghans allege discrimination as the government cracks down on terrorism

Today, I am in Lahore as I hear news of the modus operandi of a state which no longer has use for three million Afghans, most of whom had no choice when their homes were bombed by foreign forces in wars that were not of their own making. I hear about the coercion being exercised by officials tasked with the largely forcible repatriation of these men, women and children — the majority of whom have been born here over the past almost four decades. I learn of the detention of the elders of families; I hear the trucks pulling up outside their homes built in shanty towns from the savings of years of labour; I see the trucks being loaded up and then driven to where the elder has been detained. Once the detainee has been released and seated amongst the family and their meager belongings, the truck is instructed to drive them to the border, a border created by another foreign force which divided then ruled, and continues to do so with its insidious agendas being unfolded in Libya, Iraq, and Syria.

Also read: Who feels safe in Pakistan? By Zarrar Khuhro

Why do I care about this midnight movement of people I may have never met, never chanced to know? Why is it important that the political, humanitarian, and legal aspects of this new executive order be deconstructed? Because the involvement of Pakistan’s agencies in the 10-year war to defeat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan cannot be denied. Because the aggrandisement of Pakistan’s generals through the sharing of billions of US dollars cannot be denied. Because of the movement of thousands of tons of armaments through the National Logistics Cell cannot be denied. Because the victims of the blast that destroyed evidence of the sale of missiles from Ojhri Camp cannot be denied. Because the human tragedy of those who own little and are forced to give up their homes, their fields, their livestock because of global agendas, cannot be denied. Because the loss of dignity when forced to live in a refugee camp, living on handouts cannot be denied. Because the sheer strength of will it takes to rebuild lives in a strange land cannot be denied. Because once the state grants citizenship to those born here – a birthright enshrined in the Naturalization Act of 1926 – that citizenship cannot be denied.

Why don’t you care?

The writer is a human rights activist and former United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Population Fund.