LAHORE: Afghans in Lahore are resilient against miscreants involved in terrorism and are fully prepared to help the authority in any way possible to help catch the culprits of Faisal Chowk blast that killed 14 people, Afghan Peace Committee Lahore Vice President Haji Asal Khan told The Nation on Wednesday.

“Afghans community in the Lahore comprises of 10,198 people who are duly registered for the last 34 years. The number of unregistered Afghans may have crossed the figure of 30000,” Haji Asal said. He lives in the main locality of the Afghans at Saggian Bridge (Old Ravi Bridge) area on the outskirts of the city. There are about 1200 houses of Afghans in the locality.

Haji Asal said complete list of members living in each locality of Lahore was prepared and given to concerned police stations a day prior to Lahore blast. “We condemn this inhuman act in strongest possible words. We are always ready to cooperate with police and concerned authorities and will provide each and every detail on demand,” Haji Asal said.

“Pakistan had opened its arms for us and we will never forget the hospitality of Pakistan and we will not be disloyal to Pakistan because this country has given us shelter and so many things,” he was of the view.

Haji Asal said Afghan people who have gone back to Afghanistan in current repatriation scheme are currently facing a lot of problems. Most of them are living in rented houses at the time when there has been 3 feet snow fall in Kabul.

Haji Mukhtiyar Khan, 80, who hails from Mizar-e-Sahrif is one of the tribal elders of the community. “We have a peaceful community living in Lahore and have never been involved in illegal activity. Pakistan welcomed us at that time when we were in hot waters in our country and living for 34 years in Pakistan we owe a lot to this country,’ he said.

The Afghans living at Old Ravi Bridge come from Afghanistan province Kunduz and from cities and villages Archi, Chahar Dara, Imam Sahib, Khan Abad and Qalay-i-Zal.

Sardar Khan, 77, hails from Khandhar province of Afghanistan said that terrorists involved in suicide bombing and other terror activities would not hide in any of our localities as we are peaceful people and committed to help Pakistan. “We keep a sharp look out on all people who even come near our houses. No miscreant can dare come near here as they know we will hand them over to police even on the slightest suspicion.

“Our (Afghan) community owns its own business and that is waste-picking and we have complete record of all the members of the community, which is very closed knitted one. Even the guests that may come are under the notice of tribal elders,” Sardar Khan said. 

There are approximately three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan Reportedly 36,328 Afghans have been repatriated from Punjab last year.

In total, 380,045 registered Afghans refugees have returned to Afghanistan in the voluntary repatriation campaign. In recent report by Human Rights Watch, the voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan was criticized and termed as ‘forceful’. The report also criticized the role of UNHCR offering $400 to each Afghan on volunteering repatriation programme. (Photos by Mohsin Raza)