This Afghan refugee young man carries a traditional Afghani bread in Ghousabad: Photo provided by the author

Manan Mandokhail: 

Quetta, Pakistan – In the heart of Quetta, a unique neighborhood known as Ghousabad has thrived for the past four decades, hosting Afghan refugees hailing from various provinces such as Ghazni, Mazar Sharif, Kunduz, and Kandahar. This vibrant enclave, often referred to as “Little Afghanistan,” boasts Afghan-owned markets and businesses that have become an integral part of the city’s cultural tapestry.

Deadline casts a shadow of uncertainty over Afghan Diaspora

However, recent developments have cast a shadow of uncertainty over the Afghan diaspora living in Quetta, as the Pakistani government has announced a one-month deadline for the deportation of Afghan refugees residing in the country without proper documentation.

The announcement has left residents like Mohammad Azam, who has spent a staggering 42 years in Quetta, Pakistan, deeply distressed. He has ten children who were born and educated in Pakistan, with no personal recollection of Afghanistan, the land of his ancestors. For Azam and his family, the looming deportation deadline is a harrowing ordeal.

“It’s a difficult decision for us,” laments Azam

“It’s a difficult decision for us,” laments Azam, who has invested in a business and a home in Pakistan, and has even celebrated marriages within the country. As the November deadline approaches, he faces the daunting task of uprooting his life and livelihood in a mere month.

Situated just five kilometers south of Zero Point, Ghousabad instantly immerses visitors in an Afghan cultural experience, offering clothing, food, and other products imported directly from Afghanistan. The neighborhood exudes the rich traditions and flavors of Afghanistan.

“Pakistan gave me so much love that I felt this country was my own,” an Afghan refugee said

Ali Maher, another Afghan migrant who relocated from Afghanistan’s Kunduz province to Quetta in 1985, reflects on the hospitality and warmth he has received in Pakistan. “Pakistan gave me so much love that I felt this country was my own,” he says, highlighting the historical camaraderie between the two nations.

However, the abrupt policy shift has shaken the sense of security among Afghan refugees. The Pakistani government’s decision to expel all illegal immigrants from the country within a month has left families like Azam facing the uncertainty of their future in a place they’ve called home for decades.

Refugees confront this difficult challenge

The Afghan community in “Little Afghanistan” now confronts the difficult challenge of protecting their businesses, homes, and families as they navigate these turbulent times. As they adapt to this unprecedented situation, the world watches with bated breath to see how the future unfolds for these Afghan refugees in Quetta, Pakistan.

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About the Author

Quetta Voice is an English Daily covering all unfolding political, economic and social issues relating to Balochistan, Pakistan's largest province in terms of area. QV's main focus is on stories related to education, promotion of quality education and publishing reports about out of school children in the province. QV has also a vigilant eye on health, climate change and other key sectors.