Author: Miran Mazar
Abdul Ghani Bangulzai, a Baloch refugee residing in central Kandahar in Afghanistan, has told TBP that few days ago dozens of armed Taliban fighters barged into his house and asked him to vacate the house. The Taliban commander Maulvi Naseeb took away Abdul Ghanis’s car while their house is still occupied by Taliban.
After the US-Taliban talks in Doha, Taliban blitzed through Afghanistan and have captured all major cities in the country. Contrary to the 31st August deadline of foreign troops withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban militants already entered the capital Kabul on 15 August resulting in the fall of the Afghan government and ultimately in escape of Afghan president Ashraf Ghani. Taliban have since announced the formation of “Islamic Emirates”. This in effect has also concluded the very expensive two-decade long US war in Afghanistan.
These days the heavily armed Taliban militants can be seen everywhere in Kabul, they have taken control of everything from the presidential palace to the traffic system. After Taliban’s capture of Kabul, the city’s airport depicted the true sense of panic and dread of the people because of the recent events. The military helicopters and planes from different countries are evacuating their nationals and the local co-workers. In the process, scores of Afghans have died, some of whom fell from the landing gear of US planes.
After Taliban takeover, international human rights organisations, particularly those working for women rights, have expressed concerns that the Taliban will constrain the freedom of women in Afghanistan and there will be revenge killings. On the other hand, Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid has rejected these fears and has claimed that the Taliban have now changed.
However, in all these hasty developments a very important and concerning issue is being overlooked by the international media and the human rights organisations. As a result of the decades long war between Pakistani state and the Baloch “pro-independence” forces, thousands of Baloch people have been forced to sought refuge in Afghanistan. According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, just in 2006 more than 50,000 Baloch were displaced from Dera Bugti and Kohlu districts alone.
In Afghanistan, there never has been a mechanism to register Baloch refugees, but, according to reliable estimates as many as 7,000 Baloch families are currently residing refugees in different parts of Afghanistan.
Similarly, in 1970s nearly eighty thousand Baloch sought refuge in Afghanistan as a result of intensified military operations in Balochistan. However, during Taliban rule in 1990s these Baloch refugees were targeted on almost daily basis. Despite grave threats back in Balochistan, these Baloch refugees had to return. The recent takeover of Kabul by Taliban, and the close relationship the Pakistani state enjoys with Taliban has once again aggravated the fears regarding the safety of Baloch refugees.
As per latest reports, Taliban fighters have already raided several homes of Baloch refugees in Kandahar, Afghanistan. They have forcibly evicted at least two Baloch families and have occupied their houses. At least four vehicles belonging to Baloch refugees have also been taken away by Taliban from five other houses that were raided.
A Baloch refugee Abdul Wali Marri, who is currently residing in Takhta Pull district of Kandahar, told TBP that Taliban fighters have visited his house several times in past few days and have ordered him to leave the house. “When we asked whose orders are these, they told us that they were sent by Maulvi Khaleel and gave us a Whatsapp number to contact. This number is registered on a Pakistani Ufone mobile number. They warned us to contact Maulvi Khaleel as soon as possible and leave the province of Kandahar,” said Abdul Wali Marri.
Another Baloch refugee Haji Jan Mohammad told us that a Taliban fighter, who identified himself as Hafiz Nisar Ahmed, searched his house and took away his car.
TBP contacted Chairman of Baloch National Movement, Khaleel Baloch, to find out his views about the disturbing situation. Mr. Baloch said: “Afghanistan currently houses the largest number of Baloch refugees in the world. They have been living in poor conditions due to lack of support from international organisations and from the government of Afghanistan. Now Taliban have further increased their difficulties.
He further added that in last couple of days, organised action by Taliban against the Baloch refugees has been observed in Kandahar. “Armed men identifying themselves as Taliban members have forcibly evicted Baloch women and children from their homes. They are harassing families and looting their belongings, so far at least four cars belonging to Baloch refugees have been taken away by these armed people,” he said.
Khaleel Baloch said that this is a very alarming and unpredicted situation because Baloch refugees are guests of Afghan people. It is Afghanistan’s national responsibility to protect these guests. A lot can be changed in the world, but you can never change your neighbours. Baloch and Afghan nations have shared brotherly relations for centuries. Several powers have tried to breach these relations but have always failed.
BNM Chairman stressed on the Taliban leadership to resolve these issues on urgent basis and said, “I appeal Taliban leadership to investigate the incidents in Kandahar and assure the safety of Baloch refugees as soon as possible”.
It must be noted that Baloch refugees have been attacked several times in past, before the Taliban came into power. These attacks have killed dozens of Baloch refugees. Baloch political organisations and refugees maintain that Pakistan and its proxies are behind such attacks. The regional experts believe the change in the regional dynamics will result in an increase in such attacks against Baloch refugees.
Bahot Baloch, a journalist from Balochistan, told TBP that harassment of Baloch refugees, forcible eviction from their houses and looting of their valuables by Taliban fighters is a very unjust, unIslamic and inhumane act. It is very important for Taliban leadership to stop such occurrences and control the elements that are trying to create misunderstandings between the two neighbouring brotherly nations.
He feared that this treatment of Baloch refugees in Afghanistan can also increase the difficulties of Afghan refugees in Balochistan and Sindh.
It is yet to be seen whether after two decades of long war the Taliban have really changed or their behaviour with Baloch remains the same as it was in 1990s. However, it is important that the issues faced by Baloch refugees are not ignored. The UNHCR should realise its responsibility of the protection of Baloch refugees and take practical steps.