Afghan refugees face economic, education, residency issues in Pakistan

By Ehsanullah

Afghans walk along a path inside a fenced corridor carrying their luggage after arriving from Pakistan at the Torkham border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Nangarhar province, on February 2. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

Afghans walk along a path inside a fenced corridor carrying their luggage after arriving from Pakistan at the Torkham border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Nangarhar province, on February 2. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

KABUL -- Many Afghans who migrated to Pakistan since August 2021 are reporting continuing difficulties and declining quality of life in their adoptive country.

More than three million Afghan refugees live in Pakistan, according to the Pakistani government.

Habibullah Zalmai, 34, who has been living in Peshawar for about one year, cited unemployment and economic problems as the main reasons for leaving Afghanistan.

"Work opportunities were decreasing every day ... and we had to immigrate to Pakistan," he said.

Afghan refugees gather around makeshift tent shelters on the outskirts of Quetta, Pakistan, on September 6, 2021. [Banaras Khan/AFP]

Afghan refugees gather around makeshift tent shelters on the outskirts of Quetta, Pakistan, on September 6, 2021. [Banaras Khan/AFP]

Zalmai had been doing administrative work for a construction company in Afghanistan until August 2021.

"The company I was working for closed since construction work decreased significantly," he said. After that, he started working in currency exchange, but he said he lost money in that line of work.

He has found another job in Pakistan.

Khalid, an Afghan journalist who requested to use a pseudonym, said he left Afghanistan in late 2021 and now lives with his family in Rawalpindi.

"I left Afghanistan because of security threats and increasing restrictions on media work," he said, adding that now he has few opportunities to earn a living.

"There is no media work for Afghan journalists in Pakistan. Most journalists are either unemployed here or do hard labour for very low wages," he said.

"The cost of living and unemployment are other major challenges faced by me and other Afghan refugees," Khalid said.

"I cover my living expenses by doing hard labour sometimes, or borrowing money from my friends," he added.

Fareshta Ramin, an Afghan human rights activist now living in an Islamabad suburb, said she was forced to flee Afghanistan amid security concerns and the severe restrictions on women's work and education.

"Problems and uncertainty in the resettlement of refugees, the bad economic situation, lack of supporting documents from the refugee agencies to allow Afghans to work and earn a living, lack of access to free education and livelihood needs such as housing, food and health services are some of the main problems faced by Afghan refugees in Pakistan," she said.

Visa challenges

Problems with extending visas are another challenge for Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

"The fact that Afghan refugees do not have permanent resident status and visas are not extended for them is another challenge they are struggling with," Ramin said. "They have to pay hefty sums for a three-month visa extension."

"If they overstay, they have to pay a large penalty whenever they leave Pakistan or return, to be allowed to travel again," she added.

These problems have led to mental anguish among some Afghan refugees, Ramin said.

Anwari, who has applied for asylum in a Western country, said that progress is very slow on his immigration case.

"There was no living opportunity for us in Afghanistan, and we had to leave the country and apply for asylum," he said. "But the long wait in Pakistan has deprived my children of education."

Anwari said his visa is about to expire and he is concerned about whether the Pakistani government will extend his and his family's visas.

"Unfortunately, the extension of stay in Pakistan has become a major challenge for us and we face many obstacles in renewing our visas," he said.

"Sometimes we have to pay hefty sums to visa facilitators, which we cannot afford."

Ghulam Murtaza Habibi, 47, emigrated to Pakistan in 2022.

"I was working for a non-governmental organisation [NGO] in the education sector in Afghanistan, but I lost my job after August 2021, when the NGO's budget was reduced," he said.

"Because of unemployment, I immigrated to Peshawar, Pakistan, with my family more than a year ago," he said. "I am unemployed, but my son, who is 17, works in the fruit market."

But the family can hardly make ends meet because of inflation and the high cost of living in Pakistan, Habibi said.

"Since we have moved to Pakistan, the only thing we can think of is finding food for our family, and unfortunately my son ... and my two daughters, who are 14 and 13, are deprived of education," he said.

Habibi's daughters could not go to school in Afghanistan. Because they lack the proper documents, they may not study in Pakistan either, he said.

Do you like this article?

5 Comment

Comment Policy * Denotes required field 1500 / 1500

Since the day when Afghans started immigrating, especially to Pakistan and Iran, Afghanistan has not seen a good day. Today, refugees are being used as a tool in the world. Once the Soviet Union became one of the world powers, they attacked Afghanistan, and the misery of Afghans started from that moment. That war was not for Afghans but for Russia and America; however, Afghans became the worst victims. If we look deeper into this issue, today, wars among countries are based on their interests, and refugees can be good material for such battles. For example, Afghan refugees in Pakistan: Afghans who lived in Pakistan after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union forces from Afghanistan, the government established by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan was overthrown by the United States by using these Afghan refugees. Pakistan used these refugees in the war with Hindus in Kashmir. The same issue was with Iran. Iran also used the Afghan refugees to destroy Afghanistan to protect its interests. The people fighting for Iran in Syria and Iraq were Afghans who moved from Afghanistan to Iran. Now as I see, what is happening in Ukraine is what happened in Afghanistan. The war in Ukraine is essentially a reckless move by the Russians, Zelensky's ignorance, and the Russians' preoccupation with Ukraine for the Europeans. War is useless, but smart nations keep the war away from their land and defeat the enemy elsewhere.


Pakistan's government is so oppressive that it does not listen to people with low incomes and does not give time to responsible organizations to help the refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Pakistan has said that the reports about Afghan prisoners in Sindh and Karachi in Pakistan have caused serious concern for them. Oh, Punjabies, seeking asylum is a fundamental human right of the people; therefore, they should not be punished or treated as criminals. However, we will insert sticks in your asses if we ever have power. It's a pity that the generations before us were trained very poorly. They have a history of 5000 years, but it is not worth even AFN 5; however, the new generation has such a spirit that, God willing, everyone will be an enemy of Punjabi. Just time is needed to come. Currently, there are no job opportunities in Afghanistan or very few. We request the international community not reject the asylum papers of Afghans wherever they have asked for but allow them to live and work as human beings. Enough is enough. The Afghan people were oppressed very severely, and they no more had the tolerance to fight with everyone. They are tired of fighting anymore. Their children are hungry and even have no proper clothes. Their food and drink are not regular. Hey, the World Community, don't force the Afghans out of your country. Let them enjoy themselves there for a few days. Those who are stuck inside the country are facing too many difficulti


Bro, in any country where Afghans live, none of them have treated Afghans humanly and adequately. The rights of Afghans have been violated everywhere. I am not saying that Afghans are very good people; there are problems and indiscretions, but not this much improper treatment should be made against them. From time to time, I hear from the media and various television and radio stations that Afghan refugees are treated discriminately around the world. And Pakistan is the son of no one [son of bitch] who always oppresses Afghans. Afghans are being crushed all the time. Whether they are at the borders, whether they are in the cities of Pakistan, or whether they are prisoners... they are not treated humanely; instead, they are seen as animals which is an inhuman act. Sometime before, I saw/read the news that Afghan women gave birth, brides spent their wedding nights, and oldies who should have sat at home and performed their prayers and ablutions were beaten in Pakistani jails. The children who are not taken even by God for their sins, the Pakistanis have put them in prisons, and they are dying every moment. It is neither a humane nor a Muslim approach, as such behavior should be done. I am sure you journalists would also have seen the pictures published of Afghan refugees, especially of the women and children in Pakistani prisons. This situation bothers us a lot, but we cannot express it, leave alone take practical action.


Pakistan has always been Afghanistan's enemy since its inception. Since four and a half decades, they train militants and later send them to Afghanistan to destroy the public facilities and kill innocent people. During the twenty years of the republic, Pakistan provided financial support and weapons to the armed Taliban until they finally overthrew the republic. During these twenty years, the militants who were supported by Pakistan's intelligence and terrorist army killed tens of thousands of innocent Afghans and hundreds of coalition soldiers.


Why are these Afghan people running away from Afghanistan? Because the rulers of Afghanistan and the educated people of Afghanistan have not done anything for the people of Afghanistan, they are now living in Afghanistan. In this country, the educated people lived the way a guest lives in a hotel. Whenever he leaves the hotel, he leaves his bed without packing it and leaves. The rulers of the time and the educated people of Afghanistan left their homeland in the ruins and left. The poets who wrote for the love of the country, the same poet left the country. In my opinion, millions of dollars are spent annually by the United States and their partners to keep the Afghan people away from education, because during the 22 years of the government that had the support of America and European countries, the same countries that invited a pilot or a doctor or an engineer to their country for scientific seminars, months later they gave them political asylum. For this reason, all the professional doctors, engineers, pilots; anyone who had studied for one day outside of Afghanistan, were given asylum and Afghanistan lost them. Now you may judge why do they give shelter to our educated and professional people? Who will rehabilitate this country? Every educated person who leaves his homeland and runs away from this homeland, should think that they abandoned their mother and left. I am happy as they face difficulties. These people who are waiting today in our neighboring countries to receive