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Afghanistani cricketer Ibrahim Zadran dedicates Man of the Match award to Afghans forcibly deported by Pakistan: Here is what he was talking about

Zardan was the highest scorer for the winning team in the match. He said, "I want to dedicate this Man of The Match to those sent from Pakistan to back home in Afghanistan."

On 23rd October, Afghanistan beat Pakistan in the ICC Cricket World Cup match by eight wickets, chasing 285 runs on the board. It was the second-biggest win for Afghanistan in the tournament. Following the match, Ibrahim Zardan was awarded the ‘Man of The Match’ trophy that he dedicated to his fellow countrymen who were forcibly sent back from Pakistan.

Zardan was the highest scorer for the winning team in the match. He said, “I want to dedicate this Man of The Match to those sent from Pakistan to back home in Afghanistan.” With his message, he highlighted the ongoing forced deportation by Pakistan of the Afghans who escaped the war-torn country in August 2021 after the Taliban took over following the departure of American and allied forces.

The ongoing deportation of Afghans from Pakistan

When the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021, around 7,00,000 Afghans fled the country. During American and allied forces’ control over the country, millions of Afghans had already left, as the living conditions in Afghanistan were not favourable. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), around four million Afghans live there. Out of these, around 1.7 million are considered to be illegal residents in Pakistan.

A large chunk of the Afghan refugees have taken shelter in the outskirts of Quetta, Pakistan. However, the uncertainty over their living arrangements in the neighbouring country has clouded their day-to-day life following an unexpected announcement from the Pakistani government where they said only those refugees would be allowed to stay who have legal status. The Pakistani government has asked the remaining refugees to leave in 28 days. The ultimatum was given on 6th October, and the deadline is just over a week away.

After the announcement, spokesperson of Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mumtaz Zahra Baloch claimed that the policy was not aimed solely to target Afghans. She said, “We have been hosting Afghan refugees generously for the past four decades.” Millions of Afghans had fled the country during the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation. “Our policy is only about illegal individuals here illegally, no matter their nationality. But, unfortunately, there has been a misunderstanding or misrepresentation, and for some reason, people have started associating this with Afghan refugees … The laws in Pakistan are similar to laws in many other countries,” she added.

Contrary to what she said, reports suggest that thousands of Afghans are facing harassment and detention since the government announced. While the Pakistani government claimed that most of the deportations were happening “voluntarily”, the international human rights organisations accused them of targeting vulnerable individuals. They warned of serious protection risks upon their return. Notably, since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, the country has plunged into a severe humanitarian crisis impacting women’s rights and the rights of the people in general. Furthermore, devastating earthquakes in the country have increased the threat posed to the vulnerable Afghans.

A 16th October report in The Guardian suggested that at least 2,600 Afghans were already deported. Notably, it was pointed out that those who have legal refugee status were also living in fear of detention. Furthermore, reports suggest that landlords in Islamabad got notices for eviction and offers for rewards, leading to the arrest of Afghan nationals.

Many Afghans have lived in Pakistan for decades and now call it their home. However, the ongoing uncertainty over their refugee status and the possibility of detention and deportation has put a question mark on their future. As Zardan dedicated his award to the vulnerable refugees of Afghanistan, the Pakistani government’s decision to deport Afghans has been brought to the international mainstream media’s attention. 

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