Pakistan should take all necessary measures to end the rampant police harassment, threats and violence against Afghans living in the country, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.
Incidents of police abuses against Afghans have skyrocketed since the Pakistani Taliban attacked a school in Peshawar in December 2014, and is prompting many Afghans to return to war-torn Afghanistan and possibly seek asylum in Europe, the rights body said.
“The Pakistani police’s outrageous mistreatment of Afghans over the past year calls for an immediate government response,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“The Pakistani government should press the police to apprehend perpetrators of atrocities instead of scapegoating the entire Afghan community.”
The 37-page report documents myriad rights violations against Afghans in Pakistan since December 2014.
The Pakistani government is obligated to ensure that all law enforcement and other government officials treat Afghans living in Pakistan with dignity and respect for their human rights in compliance with domestic and international law.
Ending police abuses and ensuring that Afghans are treated fairly should be a first step toward formulating a viable legal framework to manage the Afghan population in Pakistan.
Human Rights Watch interviewed 50 Afghans who had returned to Afghanistan after living many years in Pakistan, and 46 Afghans living in Pakistan, as well as Pakistani and Afghan government officials, staff of non-governmental and community-based groups, UN refugee agency officials, diplomats, journalists and other experts.
Pakistan is host to one of the largest displaced populations in the world. The 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees and one million undocumented Afghans that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates are living in Pakistan as of November 2015 include many who fled conflict and repression in Afghanistan during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and their descendants.
Some arrived as children, grew up in Pakistan, married and had children of their own who have never lived in Afghanistan. Others have arrived in the decades of turmoil in Afghanistan since, seeking security, employment, and a higher standard of living.
Afghans in Pakistan have experienced a sharp increase in hostility since the so-called Pakistani Taliban, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, attacked the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, killing 145 people, including 132 children.
The Pakistan government has responded to that attack with repressive measures including the introduction of military courts to prosecute terrorism suspects, the lifting of an unofficial moratorium on the use of the death penalty, and proposals to register and repatriate Afghans living in Pakistan.
Pakistani police have pursued an unofficial policy of punitive retribution that has included raids on Afghan settlements, detention, harassment, and physical violence against Afghans, extortion, and demolition of Afghan homes.
Police abuses have prompted fearful Afghans to restrict their movements, leading to economic hardship and curtailing access to education and employment.
This oppressive situation has prompted large numbers of Afghans to return to Afghanistan, where they face a widening conflict and continuing insecurity.
Deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan have already prompted more than 80,000 Afghans to leave their country in 2015 and seek asylum in Europe.
Afghans uprooted by police abuses in Pakistan, where many have lived for decades, to return to Afghanistan may well add to the numbers of those seeking refuge in Europe as conditions deteriorate in Afghanistan.
Many Afghans told Human Rights Watch that they returned to Afghanistan because the rampant extortion meant they could no longer make ends meet in Pakistan.