Why should America accept Muslim refugees while Pakistan is sending back its Afghan refugees?

Published: December 10, 2015

A young Afghan refugee pauses as she plays with others in Manrha refugee camp on the outskirts of Herat on Thursday. PHOTO: AFP

Donald Trump declares that it will be harmful for the Christian American majority if large influxes of Muslim minorities from all over the world enter the US.

On the other hand, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) in Islamabad has claimed that the influx of poor Christians from across the country could lead to ‘demographic problems’ and ‘may affect the Muslim majority of the capital.’

Having said that, there is an outcry on social media over only one of these xenophobic and bigoted statements, Facebook activists in Pakistan seem to be very selective about their humanitarianism. America is perceived as the devil for bombing other countries, but what about Pakistan? Isn’t the state bombing within its region? It seems acceptable for people to be bombed from the sky, as long as it’s the same state doing so.

The drone strikes conducted by the US in Pakistan were ordered by the Pakistani state and was widely criticised. The hand that feeds you must be the one that chokes you to death. It’s ironic that the most fundamental duty of the state is meant to provide security to its citizens.

The silence on the contentious issue of military operations within the country may be due to the fact that people are exercising caution when it comes to the subject, and are brushing it aside under the doctrine of necessity. If it makes us feel safe, a few innocent deaths can be set aside in the name of national interests and collateral damage. However, the US bombing other countries under the same pretence is not acceptable though.

One would assume the religion of the bomber may have something to do with it.

I do not believe in generalisations that claim that our nation is full of apathetic people, who are immune to violence as they accept such atrocities as part of their daily lives, yet my Facebook news feed seems to suggest otherwise.

People are shedding tears over GazaSyriaMyanmar. And there are Pakistanis lamenting over the grievances of Syrian refugees on the Humans of New York page.

Pakistanis, known for their generosity, are willing to open up their homes to Syrian refugees, and are decrying Americans for not doing the same.

They say,

“Syrian refugees are our Muslim brothers.”

“Their country has been torn by the war and violence, they need a safe haven.”

“After all, America created the unrest; it only makes sense for them to accept refugees.”

Interestingly, this principle does not apply to Muslims much closer to home. If religion was the only factor that made most Pakistanis afraid of the ‘other’; the stereotypical immigrant terrorist flouted by Donald Trump, then why would there be such trepidations about Afghan refugees?

Yes, Pakistan saw a huge influx of Afghan refugees during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but we also saw a huge influx of American dollars given for accepting them and helping in rehabilitating those refugees. If the principle that the country who created the mischief must accept the repercussions is to be followed through, then Pakistan should at least partially take some responsibility for the violence and unrest seen in Afghanistan today, and hence, it must make sense for us to play a part in accepting Afghan refugees. Right?

Unfortunately, we have never really assimilated them into the fabric of our society. Second generation Afghan children born in Pakistan are still not considered Pakistani citizens.

Our fear of the other is so strong that PML-N ministers in Punjab refused to accept IDPs in Punjab when the North Waziristan operation started. We are so consumed by the racism of Donald Trump that we are failing to realise the racism of similar demagogues closer to home.

CDA statements sound very similar to Donald Trump’s; they contest that poor people in slum areas will come and destroy the beauty of the capital city of Islamabad. It is not even terrorism anymore; the argument now is that poor people will make Islamabad ugly.

Maybe we dress up the Pakistani refugees as Syrian refugees, perhaps then there will be more acceptance towards them in Pakistan. Maybe, just maybe, then we can also raise our voices against the maltreatment that they have faced. Or maybe we are simply just very selective about our humanitarianism.

Unless Humans of New York comes back and takes pictures of the katchi abadi protestors in Islamabad, the silence surrounding the issue, it seems, will continue.


Shehzad Ghias

A graduate from the LUMS Law School and is running his own theatre production company, Cogito Productions.He works as a theatre teacher at various schools. He tweets @Shehzad89 (twitter.com/Shehzad89)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • wb

    Sir, what Trump has said is a reality. It’s the truth. There’s no phobia, there’s no hatred, there’s no bigotry in that.

    Muslims, when you migrate to non-Muslim country, you act according to your strength. When in minority, you ask for jobs and rights. Slowly, increasing your population, building more mosques.

    Then you demand public holiday on Ramzan.

    So far, so good.

    But later on start the problems. Muslims contribute very little to the society they live in (be in majority or minority) and demand more and more.

    India is a fine example. Muslims make up a disproportionately high percentage criminals and disproportionately very low percentage of doctors/engineers. (if you don’t believe me, at least believe Teetsa Setalvad).

    Same in UK (http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-31794599). Same in Europe. Same in USA (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/07/16/what-percentage-of-prisoners-are-atheists-its-a-lot-smaller-than-we-ever-imagined/). Nearly 8% Muslim prisoners in US, while US Musilm population is between 2-3%.

    And then, slowly you start demanding Sharia. And then a separate country.

    Muslims have shown a propensity towards crime and violence wherever they have lived.

    And you must admit that Trump was correct in his assessment. Speaking the truth should not be called bigotry.Recommend

  • Maverick_NZ

    “Unfortunately, we have never really assimilated them into the fabric of our society”

    Nothing could be further from the truth, but you need to actually visit Attock, Peshawar and Kohat to know they were allowed to completely assimilate, without questions in all aspects of our society, where they introduced drugs, prostitution, organised begging and dishonesty in trade.

    This article is a desperate attempt at finding a contradiction where there is none. Lame.Recommend

  • sterry

    Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghan refugees for decades despite getting next to nothing from the UN for housing them. Unlike Iran which kept Afghan refugees in camps, Pakistan allowed them free access to schools and the work force although some of the refugee population was responsible for the spike in violence, smuggling, crime and prostitution in the country. I don’t think any country in the world would be as generous as Pakistan in helping refugees, especially when the Afghan refugees come from a country that has served as an Indian puppet state since 1947. Even former US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is on record for stating that India uses Afghanistan as a base to create cross border trouble in Pakistan. You may wish to make your own point about Syrian refugees deserving to go to the US but the world knows that Pakistan has hosted the largest refugee population for decades while getting nothing but trouble and violence. The APS attack where 140 innocent children were killed by cowards was organized from Afghanistan from the phone records revealed. It is only fair that these refugees go back to Afghanistan now.Recommend

  • Scorpion Forever

    It is silly to label this as exclusively a religious thing. If Muslims are failing in the land that they were born in, the state must assume some responsibility for it. Perhaps a lopsided education or social structure is to blame? But, I must concede that the blame must also go to the Mullahs as to the senior generations that are unable to drum sense into the current one. In foreign lands, migrate only if you can become like them. Else, stay home.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    I don’t understand this comparison.

    a) Because one wrong doesn’t justify another.

    b) 2.7 million registered and illegal Afghans according to some Pakistani officials.

    Many of your other points are valid though… but Pakistan has accepted a lot. As of 2012, 1.5% of Pakistan’s population were immigrants from Afghanistan. It’s OK for a country to close its borders at some point.

    The US of A hasn’t even started, or has it?Recommend

  • Manesh Kumar

    Excellent piece of writing…Recommend

  • kdp

    The other more serious problem is that there is no telling when a Normal Intelligent and educated Muslim (in Western Country) would turn violent and ready to kill non Muslims because of effects of indoctrination by Internet or visits to S Arabia Pakistan OR Afghanistan.Muslim youths born and raised in the USA turn Jihadist (Somalians in Minnesota, recent killing in California, Pakistani engineer who intended to bomb NY). Trump policy cannot stop thisRecommend

  • Mobius

    You are brainwashed Recommend

  • Fair Reforms

    It is heartening to find sensible honest Muslims ready to accept realities instead of their inherent denial mode and pointing fingers at others hoping that will distract critics. Unfortunately you are a minority among Muslims which is the reason why Islamic countries are where they areRecommend

  • Ravian

    Pakistan is host to the largest refugee community in the world – over 3 million Afghan refugees. Half of them are illegal, meaning they never bothered to register themselves with the UNHCR in Pakistan. People and Government of Pakistan accepted these refugees and continue to host them. For over a decade now, there is negligible foreign aid to support refugees. Still they continued to live in Pakistan and are doing business and odd jobs. There is no comparison between Pakistan and US or Europe. A number of European countries are now discouraging refugees after receiving just a few thousand of them. So please, while trying to praise the west, don’t underplay the sacrifices that we have made for other peoples’ sins.Recommend

  • jay

    Religion has become a major problem. too much of anything is bad…. no one become more pious by daily prayers, morality has got nothing to do with religion . become spiritual not religious ….Recommend

  • faroo

    muslim refugees are not selling drugs, kidnapping or abusing the new country they find
    afghan refugees abuse our country, our people, commit to crimes and increase the poverty in a country which is already very pporRecommend

  • JP

    Nope. This is the Banarsi Mullah. From the shores.
    of Mata Ganga. He was born this way. Not brainwashed.
    Well known for his rants and cockamamie theories. Subscribes
    to the Hindutva philosophy and carries a bucket of ink from place.
    to place. Temple to temple. Just in case the call comes.Recommend

  • JP

    Nope. Hindus simply done get it. When you are a conquered race,
    for thousands of years, this is the end result. You blame everyone
    for your problems. So who is your main target of paid, vitriol?
    Muslims ! After all, they ruled you for 1200 years. Just a handful of Mughals, had an iron grip on millions of docile hindus.
    It’s the Chinese turn to conquer you. And put you under the yoke again.Recommend

  • JP

    You are polite in your comment. But here is the truth about Afghans.
    What they do, in Pakistan. Here it is, once again, for the 50th. time.
    Bank robberies.Target killings. Kidnapping for ransom. Car hijacking.
    Home invasion robberies. Gun smuggling,[RAW involved]. Muggings.
    Human trafficking. Drug peddling. Aiding and abetting terrorists. No go’s.
    Aiding and abetting separatists. Religious/sectarian violence. Afghan Bastis.
    Power mafia. Water mafia. Land grabbing. Transport mafia.Land encroachment. Construction mafia.
    These are just a few of the things, just a tad, of what they do. Just scratching the surface……is this what Muslim do in the West?
    Their country is calling them. Need to go and rebuild Afghanland.
    Karzai Goth. Abdullah Abdullah-nagar….Ghani-abad.Recommend

  • Milind A

    “Why should America accept Muslim refugees while Pakistan is sending back its Afghan refugees?”

    We’ve been asking similar question – Why should a non-Muslim country accept Muslim refugees while Pakistan kicks out its minorities or Muslim countries deny freedom of worship to their minorities?Recommend

  • Ajay

    The way religion is practiced in Muslim Countries is poison for society. It creates more division in Society than good. I dont understand why should Muslim majority nations call themselves Islamic Nations? At the same time they adopt Sharia selectively. There is agitation going on in Pakistan to adopt Sharia fully by some religious heads. The moment religion is used in governance, these elements are bound to raise head. What the ISIS is trying to achieve is just a larger version of Islamic Nation, which in fact is somewhere in Muslims religious texts or beliefs. No other religion in present time mixes religion in Governance, other than Islam. Why cant Muslim majority nations first become Secular and Democratic? The most hippocratic thing is when these Muslims go to foreign countries they want secularism.Recommend

  • Hasan

    I didn’t really get what you are referring to by “one wrong doesn’t justify another”, however I do not disagree with your second point being that Pakistan is hosting the largest group of refugee populations for more than two decades. And of because of that I can hold my head high.

    However what is disheartening to see, also pointed out by the author, are the efforts by Pak govt to send the refugees back to almost certain suffering if not death. It is not about closing our borders now, it is about sending these refugees who have been living here since years back. I think that is overwhelmingly callous.

    Since we so boisterously claim ourselves to be ‘muslims’, the corner-point of Islam is compassion, regardless of religion, ethnicity and nationality. I do not feel comfortable going to my Creator knowing that I was part of the society that shut their doors to the pain and agony of fellow humans. That makes me very sad.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Agreed.But don’t go blaming the West either.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Start accepting some responsibility,it will help.Pakistan has done much to destabilize Afghanistan.And if you accept Chuck Hagel,then also accept dozens of American and other Western scholars*(some of them devout Muslims)who say that Pakistan is the hub of terrorism in the world,Recommend

  • whatever

    Taliban was made by Pakistani establishment to keep Afghan and India check which ruined the lives of Afghanistanis. Pakistan is getting money from US and UN to keep these refugee.Recommend

  • Sudhanshu Swami

    In just previous reply you said that Hindus were conquered race. It Hindus’ thoughts are not appropriate. Now you are blaming Afghans. I just remind you that fact is that Afghan ruled the most of the time the land which is called Pakistan. Pakistan land was mostly occupied by Afghan for 1200 years. What you wanted to apply on Hindus, most specifically and for longer period applied to Pakistan and the people who have been living in Pakistan but racially are not Afghan or Mughal.Recommend

  • Sudhanshu Swami

    If Pakistan took money to host Afghans, then this means that host was America, Pakistani land was rented only.Recommend

  • wb

    I love you more, now.Recommend

  • Azmat Ali

    It seems Liberal sounding is the way to go! One has to open their mounts and spit out liberal crap, simply to be counted among them. Maybe it will help with their visa applications, next time.
    Afghan Refugees have been in this country for 20 years. They caused so many problems for our society, as a whole, from Peshawar to Karachi, that it cannot be listed in this limited space. Yet, the Pakistani nation, generally made them a part of our society and did not shun them.
    Do not compare today’s Syria with today’s Afghanistan. Afghanistan is probably far better off, in most of its land, in terms of security, than Pakistan. The Afghani brethren, who are still Refugees and have not already become Pakistanis, must return to their lands. They came here are refugees, not for immigration. UNHCR does not require Pakistan to host them for ever.
    So yes, now that Afghanistan is far, far better shape, they must return. Alternatively, they can apply for Pakistani nationality and become Pakistanis. They, however, cannot and should not continue as a Refugee in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Guy

    Atleast coming from Mata Ganga empty handed is fine rather than from a madrassa having an explosive belt tied dreaming of a pan Islamic world ….. meaning death of all human civilization.Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    How do you know kdp is a Hindu?
    Wow! Dude you are bitter. All you talk about is hindus being docile, ruled etc. By your argument and logic, Hindus should been completely eliminated, but they are not. Nor are the Jews ;-)
    We all know what “race” is biting the dust now and is still lives in some dreamland paradise and false glories of past conquests.

    Anyways, can you challenge what kdp said, instead, about “Normal Intelligent and educated Muslim (in Western Country) would turn

  • Time Is Up

    Pakistan, being the self-appointed leader of Ummah, a Nuclear nation, should do more for its brothers. When brother needs help, let them not beg in front of non-Muslims.Recommend

  • sterry

    Has India accepted responsibility for its terrorism in occupied Kashmir or its manipulation of Afghanistan since 1947? Terrorism in Pakistan is declining thanks to the efforts of the military and the current civilian government but you forget why it started in the first place. Due to instability in Afghanistan and the Soviet invasion, freedom fighters were recruited and supported by the West to oust the Soviets. Pakistan was used as a frontline state and suffered untold billions of dollars of damage; Apart from hosting millions of refugees, Pakistan was destabilized when the West abandoned the region after the Soviets were defeated. Pakistan has effectively been cleaning up the mess. When will India stop interfering in Pakistan through its lackeys in Afghanistan as it has been doing since 1947? This is the real question. Afghans may be willing puppets of Indian misadventure but it will only continue cause them more misery. Instead India should work to settle the Kashmir dispute according to the wishes of people there and stop meddling on other nation’s affairs.Recommend

  • LS

    Says a guy whose country was the first one to get conquered by the same forces and mass conversions followed… yet those conquerors are your heroes. So lets not speak of who is docile or who is not because Rulers and people from what is India today have have ruled from Afghanistan to rest of the India many times in the history and had influence far reaching Indian boundaries . There has been no such personality from what is Pakistan today who has had an iota of impact on global forum or Pakistani history. Pakistan was rule by anyone who just walked by. All you are good a is claiming the conquest of others as yours.

    Muslims of the world do not care about Pakistan. Pakistan IS NOT the leader of Muslim or Muslim ummah (if there is something that even exists) and their victories and conquests are NOT Pakistani Victories or conquests…
    What Muslims from the erstwhile Arabia, Turkey, Mongols or Afghans did belongs to them, NOT PAKISTAN. They are separate countries and Pakistan has detrimental impact on them. So don’t feel too proud of something you have had no hand in (In fact you were as good as their slaves and converted on their whim)

    It is pathetic that you had to resort to praise your own marauders as Heroes and pray for them… At least In India we are NOT predominantly Muslim despite 300 year Mughal rule in a limited area. Nor do we praise them or make them our heroes and nor do we claim their heroics as our own despite them living in India for long time…Recommend

  • LS

    Any hardline follower of Sanatana Dharma is better than people like Hafiz Saeed or Mullah Umar or lal masjjid patrons, or leaders of 100’s of gun totting murdering terrorist leaders and their minions. Speak for yourself for a change.. instead of gloating in the shadows of your erstwhile masters?Recommend

  • Ram

    first accept your own stranded Biharis in Bangladesh and protect Ahamdis and shiasRecommend

  • ram

    dude do you know Afghans do these crime by choice, your country provided them arms but never gave them a livelyhood, your reap what you sowRecommend

  • ajeet

    These are all normal vices which Muslims introduce wherever they migrate.Recommend

  • cabalco

    that is very flawed analysis, considering about 80% of their population is still hindu. By your logic all of arabia and catholic europe are conquered races. They took the religion of their rulers, hence they were truly ruled. If religion is the only barometer, China was conquered without sending a single soldier, by buddhists!Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Since when did you start taking pride in your own subjugation. Your ancestors changed their faith either to avoid persecution or out of choice but that does not make them conquerors, you were as much conquered as the Hindus.

    Are you one of those who believes in “biradar mulk”Recommend

  • shiva the destroyer

    oh really?
    u should google Rotherham Scandal in UK to know what Pakistan refugees do all around the world
    Then google crime in Sweden by PakistanisRecommend

  • cabalco

    delusions of grandeur.Recommend

  • Rd px

    The Afghans unfortunately create(d) a lot of problems. The responsibility is on both the host and guest to behave well.Recommend

  • vasan

    Is it your reply to the post blaming muslims. PatheticRecommend

  • vasan

    Why dont u post a sensible rebuttal to the post rather than blaming wb. I bet you cant dispute the facts. So you rant.Recommend

  • vasan

    Arent they part of the ummah. Arent these activities done by your “misinformed” brothers of TTP. What is the difference between you and Afgans ?Recommend

  • siesmann

    Pakistan created the mess-so it must clean it.That something happens in India is no excuse for your doing the same for your fellow Muslims-the ones Pakistan has done anything and everything to destabilize and destroy.What one does has to pay for it.(think Taliban)
    INdia is there on Afghan’s allowing it.Go talk to Afghans,and convince them.And India is there for construction,not destruction.
    Kashmir?Pakistan lost its opportunity by attacking it,and then nor fulfilling the requirements of a plebiscite.Pakistan lost half of it(deserving) trying to annex it.Recommend

  • IndianDude

    Very sensible writing by this young author. Kudos to you.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Someone who belong to a conquered race should not speak that much. you guys lost both your religion and land to foreigners.
    We Indians have not lost our culture or religion to aliens.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    yes they are indeed doing what you have written, even worse.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    yeah he is brainwashed.
    his brain is clean.
    what about yours?Recommend

  • Grace

    Begging isn’t just for Muslim countries but all developing countries. Look at how India begged for Canadian Candu Nuclear reactors which were given as aid but then they turned around and made nuclear bombs with it ! Saudis and Gulf Arabs beg US for defense and all poor countries like India beg for aid for poor people. When will it end?Recommend

  • Grace

    Indians have been implicated in a lot of child abuse cases in US. The crime in Pakistan coincided with arrival of Afghan refugee population who should have moved to India instead.Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    You lost my point. Developing nations need money agreed. Some have misguided their public to give false jingoistic hope of being invincible and defiant, while asking for alms.Recommend

  • Yazz

    I do not understand, what you are trying to say? You want to say that its okay to ban refugees from entering American soil as Pakistan is doing so? Pakistan is hosting refugees for decades, Pakistan is not sending them back without consent of Afghan Govt and UN, has given one more extention. And at the onset of crisis, Pakistan opened its borders, at the onset of crisis US is closing… Compare an apple with an apple. It does not make sense to compare start of one crisis with mid of another crisis. Afghan refugees, I dont even call a crisis, they had a land to stay on and that land was Pakkstan.

    Your arguments are inherently flawed.Recommend