09/21/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Pakistan is refusing to accept any new refugees fleeing Afghanistan following the country’s fall to the Taliban. For Afghanistan’s secretive and persecuted Christian community, Pakistan’s refusal to accept refugees complicates an already complex and dangerous situation.
“We don’t have the capacity to absorb more, so our position is that they [Afghans] stay in Afghanistan,” Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, told The Independent. “I see no reason why they can’t stay in Afghanistan.”
According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Pakistan currently hosts more than 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees. An additional 2 million are estimated to also be living in Pakistan without official documentation.
“We have our limitations,” Qureshi continued in his interview with The Independent. “Pakistan has been hosting over three million, almost close to four million refugees for so many decades without any international help or assistance. We do not have the capacity to absorb more, honestly.”
Since the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan in mid-August, the UNHCR estimates that more than 9,200 Afghan refugees have fled to Pakistan. Jummadad Khan Mandhokhail, a Balochistan provincial official, told Al Jazeera that at least 250 of these new Afghan refugees have been deported back to Afghanistan.
“We have returned them because the Pakistan government has not at this time made any camps to facilitate Afghan refugees,” Liaquat Shahwani, spokesman for the provincial government of Balochistan, told Al Jazeera. “Our decision is that we will not allow them right now.”
For Afghan Christians and other at-risk communities, the closure of the Pakistani border and the government’s hostility toward Afghan refugees complicates an already complex situation.
The Christian population of Afghanistan is estimated to be as large as 12,000 individuals, making it one of the country’s largest religious minority groups. Afghan Christians are almost all converts from Islam, making them a prime target for persecution under the Taliban’s brutal interpretation of Sharia law.
For Afghan Christians, the Taliban consider them apostates due to their conversions to Christianity. Leaving Islam is considered extremely shameful and converts face dire consequences if their conversions are discovered. As apostates, Afghan Christians will be subject to Sharia’s deadliest consequences under the Taliban’s rule.
ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark, said, “Pakistan’s decision to close its border to Afghan refugees complicates an already complicated and dangerous situation. With less places to escape persecution at the hands of the Taliban, the desperation felt by those stuck in Afghanistan will only increase. The international community must do more to help these at-risk communities in Afghanistan, including Christians. For Afghan Christians, a special status must be created that would allow them to leave Afghanistan and resettle in a safe country. With the Taliban now in control, Christians stuck in Afghanistan are likely living in the most dangerous country in the world for Christians.”
SOURCE International Christian Concern