Among the myriad problems of ethnic discrimination, the Pakhtun and Afghan community are now openly harassed and blamed for terrorism and crime. The Human Rights Commission in Pakistan has called the attitude towards the Afghans, and to some extent, Pakhtun migrants, as xenophobic. They are blamed for eating up jobs and resources by local populations. They need to “go back home”- a symptom of conservative myopia.

There are increasing tensions between the Punjabi traders and Pathan workers. The poor of Pakhtun origin in Punjab are afraid of even going to the local police station, and constantly watch their back for police harassment. But, there is no such thing as Pakhuns-taking-our-jobs. As citizens of Pakistan they have a right to live and earn in whatever city they want.

When Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced a crackdown on the Afghan slums in Islamabad’s I-11 sector, claiming that it had become a safe haven for terrorists, many alleged that not only was it based on ethnic bias, several local commercial groups also had an interest in its clearing. Some families from Afghan communities have lived here for three generations now. The children of those who migrated know Pakistan as their home, and we must have some compassion in our hearts for these people. The National Action Plan has led to the deportation of 3,416 Afghans to their ‘country of origin’. Yes, they are not Pakistani, but it is up to the state to sort out their status- registration, naturalisation or deportation. As humans, they too have a right to life and sadly, we Pakistani’s don’t seem to be very kind people. This community has had a miserable time and with no political voice they languish in camps and slums, or skulk around in cities for menial work, where they know they can never be citizens.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province witnessed a sharp decline in the incidents of terrorism in the first four months of the current year compared to the same period in previous years. Law enforcement and rule of law can solve the terrorist problem; xenophobia will only make it worse.