The plight of Afghan refugees in Pakistan does not come as a shock but a special report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) explores the horrors these settlers face, exposing alarming accounts of how the law enforcement agencies have mistreated them.

Through a series of interviews with refugees who had returned to Kabul, as well as Afghans still living in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Kashmir and Punjab, it is revealed that the use of harassment, threats and intimidation, by law enforcement agencies, had reached an all-time high in the wake of the APS attack. We forget, that just as every Muslim cannot be clamed for the recent attacks in Paris, every Afghan in Pakistan cannot be blamed for the APS attack.

This persecution of Afghans is despite the fact that the investigation into the attack did not yield evidence of significant Afghan involvement.

The Afghan population in the country has continued to be targeted at the official level- in an effort to crack down terrorism and hold someone responsible. Several of those interviewed said they were forced by the authorities to go live in refugee camps, such as the one in Haripur to escape police harassment. However, in the absence of facilities such as food, water, shelter and electricity, many families chose to move back to Afghanistan, despite the adversity that awaited them there.

The HRW found that an overwhelming majority of unregistered Afghans (those who have no legal status and are not registered with the government) who left Pakistan after the army school attack were not formally deported. The International Organisation for Migrants (IOM) categorised some 33,000 refugees leaving as “spontaneous returnees” (meaning they were not formally asked to leave the country) from the beginning of 2015 through the first two weeks of February.

Pakistan has been host to one of the largest refugee populations for over three decades now. However, we are too cruelly making their life unbearable. The should return to their country, of course, but the process needs to be humanitarian and planned. They may not be citizens but they have human rights. The KP government spokesman Mushtaq Ghani said it was the government’s responsibility to ensure protection for the refugees. But he said police was an autonomous institution in KP and is not subject to political pressure.

The government issue a specific written directive instructing all relevant government officials and state security forces to cease unlawful surveillance, harassment, intimidation, and violence against Afghans living in Pakistan. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect - a clear compliance with Pakistan’s domestic and international legal obligations.