PAKISTAN'S AFGHAN REFUGEES: IMPLICATIONS AND PROSPECTS

Created: 10/1/1982

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Implications and Prospects

movement of moreillion Afghan refugees into Pakistan's western borderlands poses difficult problems for the government of Pakistan.olitical solution lo tbe situation in(hat would motivate (he refugees to returnheir homeland. Pakistan is saddled with the world's largest refugee populationegion (hatesource base to support the influx. Should economic conditions deteriorate in (he regions where (hearc concentrated, or-if aid to the refugeeis reduced, we believe that (he attitude toward Ihe refugees would change from (nictation toas they become job and resource competitors. Insurgent use of refugee encampments as safe havens risks Soviet-armed intrusions into Pakistani territory, but. in our opinion, (be government may fear as much the penetration of Soviet agents into refugee groups or Pakistani tribes for subversive meddling in politically volatile frontier polllicss^BBj|

A strong concern of the United States is tbe prospect of an increase in opium poppy cultivation and heroin production in Ihe tribal areas in Pakistan, where (he refugees can be used as cheap labor. Shouldsupport or Pakistani Government funding for the refugees decrease, an increase in Afghan opium in (he tribal bar jars is likely because of the need toce refuse lubsisteaoe ind Insurgent objectives.

Who Art They?

Since (he springoreillion Afghans have been registered as refugees inegistration records indicate thatoercent of (hem are Push tun tribesmen,hird of tbeillion Pushlun ethnic communiiy members in Afghanistan, (About half of Afghani' start'sopulation was classified asany of tbe refugees brought livestock with them; most of them are farmers or farm laborers, somestoral nomads,esser butumber are professionals and (he well-to-dolS^

ew Towns

The Afghan refugees have doubled the numberIn1 census for Pakistan's western borderlands. To deal more effectively withakistani relief officii Is t'oup refugees where possible into campsersons,amilies each.efugee tented villages (RTVs) have been established, most of which are in (he formerly rura^edcrally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)^BB

The majority of tho camps are clustered in six areas, near major points of en(ryakistan: the Bajaur-Dir area, the environs of Peshawar, the Kurram River valley, and (he Gumal River valley in the North-Wcs( Frontier Province (NWFPj:Ihe Pishin-Queita and ihe Chagai Hill* area* In Baluchillan

Refugees as Cuests

The Pakistani Government publicly stresses thenature of (he refugees' stay in Pakistan by referring to (hem as guests, by encouraging the use of tents, and by discouraging activities lha( would place (he refugees in competition with the local populatico. A( the same time, the building ofc-(ures by the refugees is Quietly permitted to overcome the need to cor.siar.ily replace tenis that, buffeted by theet in lessear. Camp poptuV (ions are also being dispersedesettlement areas ia NWFP districts away from the border both for security reasons and to alleviate the strain onresources in (he frontier areas. Refugeeand entrepreneurs, such as truckers, have been allowed to pursue commercial activities, in ethnically sensitive areas of Baluchist

The Elhrtic Factor The Afghan refugees arc largely confined to Pmhiue ethnic areas in the Nortb-Wesi Frontier Province and Baluchistan, where (hey share kinship tiesystem of cultural values with the people whom (hey live. Allhoui _

^Bluiie open resentment of (he refugees, some di scon tent has been voiced from elements of those groups affected by (he refugee presence, namely:

narrow segment of (he middle class pinched by rising prices caused by an increased demand for consumer items, food, and housing.

economic class groups with incomes in (he range of Pakis(ani Government support payments to ihe refugees.

tribesmen In direct competition with (he refugees for wa(er resources and grazing areas.

tribesmen in conflict with Sunni Afgbaa refugees in the crowded Kurramlie, HH

We believe that ethnic homogeneity hasey factor in the relatively low level of frictionate between ibe refugees and the local inhabitant*.of the refugees into non-Pushlun areas ofand Sind, as seems inevitable, risks outbreaks of violence and ihe likelihood of exacerbating sensitive intere(hnic group relations in the domestic politic* ofesource Pressures

The refugee camps arc located in areas (hat have been experiencing heavy native ou(migra(ion over (he past decade. The probable cause, according lo academic sources, is the continuing degradation of the natural environment in an area where traditionallyercent of the tribesmen have been dependent on some form of subsistence agriculture. More specifically, ihey pinpointed increased erosion and lowered agricultural productivity resulting from overgrazing, ovcreuttini of the region's tree growth for firewood, and poor farming techniques

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TJie majority of the camps are clustered in in areas near major potnu of entry into Pakistan: ihe Bajaur-Dir area, ihr cm irons of Pc.Kawir. ihe Kurrant River valley, and ihe Gumalvalley in ihe North-Wcst Frontier Province (NWFPf; and Ihe Pishin-Quetia and Ibe Chagai Hills arcai in Baluchiilan. Where pouiDK. relict officials attemptocale die camps ai leanilometers, from the bordervoidrovocaiion for Sovici crow-border raids. The camp sites are adjacentotorable road,ource of water, and on land not suitable for agriculture or other uses by the local population. Food and shelter are provided by international relief organizations and volunteer agencies, but water supplies, grazing space, and firewood for fuel are scarce.Bffl|

1 Ptkuuni rtlwfilmii ibai ik ntunbci of icaittercdigher than ihai for Ihotc ptcieni ia lite umpt. butaiMime thatrou(M. biljncn iheof unrtfiueredus tefiiice alficUIj concede 1U1 mertt b* knownof KahipMrcfafWpM'doh rewnaxmi (ibe xqvauruit of wxreni ind hotsiliolt formi of aBMal probint ind ceniu ubr^BJJJ

We believe it unlikely that large numbers of refugee, can be sustained in ihese resource-poor regions with oul continuing government subsidies or some form of economic development. Tribal land holding patterns preclude the sale of land to farmers among the refugees, and grazing space in the largely barrenlarge areas are required to support smallItmiied. leaving little to accommodate refu-II

of subsistence agriculture. More.specifically, ihey pinpointed increased erosion and lowered agncultura productiviiy resulting from overgrazing'; overcutting of Ihe region's tree growth for firewood, and poor farming techniqu

Regional Economic Impact

The influx of international relief supplies, government support funds, and rcmitlance income from Pakistani Pushtuns working in the Gulf countries have blunted the economic impact of the refugees in theOne out of every iwo low-income households in ihe North-Wcst Frontier Province, according lo a

World Bank economist, receives remittances that can quadruple family income. Afghan refugees arcreplacing unskilled laborers leaving thehave been observedon road projects near Ihe environs of Islamabad VB

A lessening of support funds for refugee programsecline in remittance income wouldubstan-ial negative economic Impact in the tribal border-ands. We believe Ihisrowing danger because nost of the Pushums working in the Gulf area are inArabia as unskilled construction laborers. As he construction phase slows, perhaps hastened by icclining oil revenues, worker demand will shift to lore technically qualified maintenance personnel 'ho may be recruited from Ihe larger pool of qualifiedin the Punjab and the Sin J. Fewer unskilled ibs in (he Gulf will increase pressures on ibe local job larket and on scarce resources in the borderlands, he tolerance for the refugee presence will probably

n.increase in poppy cultivation would also undermine Siaie Department assistance programs to encourage crop substitution and rural development nd endanger ihe limned progress already achieved.

Strategic Risks

The support of the Insurgency in Afghanistan by groups using refugee encampments in Pakistana rationale for Soviet incursions into theReliable sources assert that the Pakistaniwill seek waysestrain cross-border insurgency support by the Afghans fromevel that might prompt Soviet military intervention The US Embassy reports that there is growingamong those Pakistanis who. having drawn an analogy with the Palestinians, believe that these well-armed groups couldroublesome security problem in the borderlands. We believe that refugee suppou activities can be moderated but cannot be

-grows thai lirelack-of closecontinue to receive government payments- and control and the widespread sympathy for litebecome job and resourceamong iheir ethnic kindred in Pakistan.

Dispcrsemenl of Ihe refueee camps io other locations away from the borderilute their attractive-

. rprobably

ifateftarattthat-ehc-rcfugeci willeceiveymenu;o become job and resource compctitors^|

nc uc.icvc inaisupport activities can be moderated bul cannot be

close border-control and ihc widespread sympathy for the refugees* objectives among their ethnic kindred in Pakistan. Dispersemcnl of Ihe refugee camps lo olher locations away from the border would dilute their attractive-nessuisance target for the Soviets, but those refugees most actively engaged in cross-border aciivi-tics would probably resist lea vine the frontier area^

Pakistani Apprehensions

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the Soviet use of Afghan refugees and/or Pakistani Pushlun tribesmen for subversive activities in ihe politically volatile borderlands. They are apprehensive that should the refugees lose faith in an eventual return to their homelands, they may become active in NWFP tribal politics, rekindling agiution for an autonomous Pushiunistan on Pakistani territory. Their presence in large numbers in (he borderlands

would threaten government effortsntegrate (he

tribal areas inio the political life of Paktst

The Narcotics Connection

Opium poppy is (he most lucralive cash crop grown in (he Afghan-Pakislani borderlands. Pushtun iribcsmen are experienced traders and smugglers of opium and.

their

movement into (he processing oi opium into morphine and heroin12 has made Pakistan one af (he major heroin-producing countries in the world. Drug enforcement officials indicate that an opium flut exists in ihe tribal bazaars. If the glut ends in (he text year or two. as (hey expect, we believe thai the icnfold increase in profits offered by heroin combined kith (he availability of hundreds of thousands of efugees as cheapof whom come from loppy growing areas inrefugee nvolvement in opium poppy cultivation in the tribal .gendes inevitable. Alternatively, if support for either he refugees or ihe insurgents decreases, anpium from poppy growing areas in Afghanistan an be expected lo flow into the tribal bazaars in 'akisian to help fund (he refugees' subsistence and ne insurgents' objectivcsJ^B

iover nment efforts to control poppy cultivation in the etded Areas of (he NWFP do not extend into ibal frontier agenciesi

Cold Realities

The introduction of numerous sophisticated weapons among refugee groups and local tribesmen in the wake of the Afghan insurgency has made Pakistan's peacekeeping effort* in Ihc borderlands more difficult-Warfare isnort among the Pushlun.ribal society thai traditionally seilles disputes with guns, intertribal dashes arc likely to escalate out of control Quickly. On anotherisquieting factor for the Pakistani military in any future con frontal ion with armed Pushlun tribesmen is the experience and confidence that the Puthtun have giine^ncornbaiinc technologically superior Soviel m

We believe that the refugees arerolonged-to-indefinite stay In Pakistan, despite the effort of the government to characterize them as "temporaryhe refugees ate reluctant to return io their homeland permanently as long as the current Afghan Governmenl is in power. Even if conditions inwere to become conducive to repatriation, it is unlikely (hat all of the refugees would return, particularly the landless laborers among (hem. The longer (he refugees stay in Pakistan, the more likelyarger number will take up permanentin Pakistan. Many Afghans have established new lives in Pakistan, among them businessmen, professionals, and Ihc thousands of students enrolled in Pakistani universities. We believe that theand political implicationsontinuing Afghan refugee presence loom as the major concern of the Pnkisinni Governmenl in in relations wiih

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