Supporters of former Pakistan military ruler Pervez Musharraf shout slogans at a protest in Karachi yesterday.
ISLAMABAD: As Afghanistan goes to the polls to elect a new president on April 5, Afghan refugees living in Pakistan will not get the opportunity to cast their vote.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), no arrangements have so far been made for the Afghans in Pakistan to cast their vote in the Afghan presidential election.
“Arrangements have not been made regarding the voting of Afghan refugees,” UNHCR spokesman Najeebullah Tareen said.
“Neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan recognises us,” said white-bearded Haji Naseem, sporting a black turban and originally from Afghanistan’s Baghlan province.
Overall Pakistan is home to around 1.6 million Afghan refugees, while scores of Afghan families are settled in Ghousabad, a wind-blown poor neighbourhood located in the eastern part of Quetta.
Afghan refugees (including Pakhtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras) settled in different parts of the Balochistan capital yearn to have a say in deciding their homeland’s fate. “We are Afghans, it is our right to cast vote in the elections,” Haji Naseem said.
More than two dozen candidates are in the run for the country’s presidential elections. Ashraf Ghani Ahmedzai and former ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zalmai Rasool are among the front-runners.
Incumbent President Hamid Karzai cannot contest because of term limits.
Afghan refugees had cast their vote in previously held elections.
However, this time the international community and the Afghan Election Commission seem to have given a cold shoulder to them. “Our rulers have forgotten us. They don’t own us,” Rehmatullah, an Afghan shopkeeper originally from Kunar province, said.
UNHCR has put the number of registered Afghan refugees in Balochistan at 327,788, living in 10 refugee camps. During President Karzai’s first election, the Afghans were given the opportunity to cast their vote.
The Afghans in Balochistan are faced with a host of problems. Afghan residents of Ghousabad narrate heartbreaking stories of their plight. “Nobody bothers to support us, we are fed up here,” said 60-year-old Juma Khan, originally from the city of Mazar-i-Sharif.