Pakistan’s long distance relationship with Afghanistan will never end

Published: August 15, 2016


Banaras Khan was eight when he came to Pakistan in 1979, shortly after the Russians arrived in Afghanistan. He was the second eldest son, who crossed the Pak-Afghan border at Mohmand by foot with only his mother. His father had two wives – and he chose to settle down with Banaras’ stepmother in Peshawar.

Banaras and his mother came with nothing to a country completely foreign to them. They took refuge with an old Afghan neighbour who was already residing in a rented home in my neighbourhood. His mother borrowed some money in the hopes of starting their life again. She began to make choli (beans) for her son, like she always did back in Afghanistan. Eventually, Banaras started to sell the choli at the village street and what was once the only thing that connected them to the home they left behind was now their source of income. All the while his older brother, Malik Khan, was busy in the war against the Russians. As gut wrenching as it was to be part of a family that was no longer intact, Malik’s visits every now and then was still a happier alternative to losing him to war altogether.

37 years ago, they would’ve never imagined that stepping into a country completely unknown to them would’ve been the best decision they ever made. The initial hardships and daily struggles of being part of a family that was torn apart by war seem to be a blur in the past. Banaras’ business gave them a new slice of life as it grew bigger than they suspected it would. Banaras is now a famous choli seller in the village while his older brother runs a choli shop in the main market. Both the brothers now find themselves happily married and have sons and daughters of their own. They earn enough to encourage their sons to pursue an education from the local schools and colleges in town – they’ve been able to provide their children with a normal life, one they did not have the privilege of having earlier.

Not once have they had to think about going back to Afghanistan.

Last month, an announcement in town regarding repatriation forced Banaras Khan and his family to think about relocating; most of their relatives have already headed back. The prospect has been heavy not only on their minds, but on their pockets as well. They have had to cut down on their business in fear of the police, who have found an excuse to harass them regularly – demanding refugee cards or bribes in exchange to live on peacefully for a while longer.

Banaras’ son, Sikandar, was not ready to move. He’s studying engineering in Pakistan and he feared that relocating will ask him to compromise and tamper his education. But, when his Pakistani friends kept on asking him when he was heading back ‘home’, he couldn’t help but consider it. He became fed up by all the constant questioning, making him feel as though, all of a sudden, he’s not welcome in this country anymore. These hatter voices upset him and, even though he once strongly opposed the idea, he is now trying to convince his father to go back to Afghanistan.

Not once had Sikandar ever thought about Afghanistan. He has never seen Afghanistan in his life. Even his father insisting that they visit their homeland did not make him change his mind. His response would always declare Pakistan as his homeland; where he was born, where he studies, where he got married and, which now is home to his child.

He’s been raised all his life and breathed in this culture and their frame of mind. He, too, has been taught to dislike India just like any other Pakistani college student. He cheers uncontrollably for Pakistan during a heated India-Pakistan match. He has studied from the same textbooks and agrees with why India has lost Pakistan’s loyalty. He considers India his enemy, just like his other fellow Pakistani students. He bleeds as green on the August 14th as every other Pakistani when the day plays out. He knows the national anthem by heart, he’s been singing it every day, all his life at school assemblies.

And yet, his Pakistani friend had the gall to call him a friend of India.

Sikandar grew up here and expanded his business here. He loves Pakistan more than Afghanistan, yet he is not considered a Pakistani. He revisits history when Pakistanis were divided about supporting the US during the Russian war, and then the US invasion of his native land. Despite everything, he will always support Pakistan over anything; he will love Pakistan even when he goes back to Afghanistan, because no one can make him hate this country, not even all those speeches that are spread across the border.

He knows that grievances can come between two brothers, but nothing can separate them forever. These man-made boundaries can stop us for some time, but they cannot divide us forever because in hard times, we will come together again.

Mureeb Mohmand

Mureeb Mohmand

An Express Tribune reporter from FATA. He tweets @mureebmohmand (

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

  • rtnguy

    Pathetic…so to love pakistan, u have to hate india. Pakistan is a cancer on indian subcontinentRecommend

  • Biased

    Wait, once an Indian agent masquerading as social worker/ health worker/ educator begins paying Banaras his daily stipend in Kabul, he will immediately turn from a thankful Afghan to a paranoid poodle who will begin to see Pakistan behind all his miserable problems in life, just like his leaders….Recommend

  • Guest

    Left wing articles spouted by express tribune to make people emotional and sympathetic towards afghanis. Yes some of them may be good and pro Pakistan but most of them possess extreme hatred towards us. I live in UK and have have seen first hand how much they hate us. We have hosted them for 30 plus years and everyone knows what they have given us in return. Send them all back and those who want to come back they should be given visas provided they are not the usual vile everyday afghanis. Recommend

  • Grace

    Perhaps there are some Afghan refugees who have integrated well into Pakistani society and are contributing to it. The problem is that a large number of them are involved in smuggling, prostitution, terrorism and crimes which gives a bad name to all Afghan refugees. Also, the Afghan refugees living in Europe and North America are also know to be living on welfare(state social assistance) and bring social problems where they have moved as asylum seekers after smuggling on boats and in vehicles. If Pakistan has housed them, educated them and given them economic opportunity, they should welcome the chance to now contribute to Afghanistan which needs to be rebuilt. If every Afghan just wants to run away and live somewhere else as a refugee, how can Afghanistan ever develop? Imagine if all the Afghans in Europe on social assistance were to work and help their own country instead of just collecting the money of German tax paying citizens. Pakistan should focus on bettering the lives of its own people first before we worry about Afghans, Indian Muslims, Bangladeshis and others.I know a lot of Afghans have been brainwashed by India into thinking all their problems are due to Pakistan but I know deep down inside Afghans know that they alone caused the misery in Afghanistan and now they should work to fix their country.Recommend

  • Palaupakistani

    Sad, tht pakistanis cry foul when the west does the same to pakistani immigrantsRecommend

  • PakistaniPashtun

    I agree with what you mentioned regarding the feeling and emotions of Afghan refugees . None of us, be it pashtun, punjabi, balochi etc ever considered afghan refugees as aliens. They were part of our lives until Torkham incident happened. It showed us the real hatred of Afghans towards Pakistan which changed the minds and thoughts of us Pakistanis in general and pashtuns in particular.
    Yes we are brothers but tum wahan and hum yahan. Recommend

  • Patwari

    All Afghans in Pakistan [true figure about 5 million] need to go home.
    And help rebuild their country. They can take their businesses with
    them. And their second and third generations along too.. All in one package.
    No problem. Afghanistan needs it’s citizens back. Besides these
    Afghans caused a lot of grief, mayhem, and distress in Pakistan.Recommend

  • ABKhan

    The writer himself seems like an Afghan. only your own country is yours, everywhere else you are a guest and you need to return.Recommend

  • Khan Saab

    how low hit… feeling sorryRecommend

  • Khan Saab

    problem lies in the elite mind of Afghanistan … ofcourse the reaction will be fierce from this side too then. anyways its better for them to go and rebuild their own country.Recommend

  • Anoop

    Pakistanis are quick to ask Afghans to get out, but will not send the money they got from the Americans to host and train them against Soviets.

    America gave a LOT of aid, including military aid to get Pakistan to train the Afghans.

    Is there no humanity?Recommend

  • Anoop

    Surely, you didn’t host them for free!Recommend

  • Kushal

    Does that include Afghan Taliban as well?Recommend

  • Khalid

    I agree with 90% of Article. Afghans r our brothers. But both our nations are being lead by leaders who are unable to see us to our real destiny, which should be like EU model. Pak, Afghan, Central Asia is like one region and one people. I hope, that day comes.Recommend

  • mariakarim

    iam pakistani born afghan citizen, i love pakistan the land i had opened my mind irrespective of wht others say and think ,even i leave i would love pakistan Recommend

  • Alter Ego

    Maybe you should do the noble task then and yes we hosted them for free.Recommend

  • ABKhan

    Its learnt from you guys. If supporting Pakistan in a cricket match can through the students out of university in India than Pak will respond in the same tone. Now stop cryingRecommend

  • ABKhan

    Ok, then you take them and all of their wealth too. Only commenting is free, which you are doingRecommend

  • Alter Ego

    Pakistan immigrants go there legally , they obey the laws and after five to six years they obtain citizenhip.

  • Alter Ego

    Expect nothing else from an Indian.
    To have to be a citizen of a country you have to be loyal to it .
    Otherwise bye bye.Recommend

  • Alter Ego

    Is there no sense , the so called money has long since gone or are you saying that they have been living on the money for the past 30 years.Recommend

  • Kasturi K

    Yes, definitely. Some have been already pushed over, the rest will followRecommend

  • Kasturi K

    For your kind information, Pakistan delivered in lieu of that. Soviets were defeated and America became the sole super power. Then they didn’t need us, job done. Change of policy, new world order, new strategy, new friends. Enter India and new alliances were build which swelled the head of India. Instead of being thankful that we helped end the Cold War and they got the chance of their life, Indians come to these forums to bash us. Ungrateful world!Recommend

  • fze

    Bless you Maria, people like you are a gem.Recommend

  • pork lover

    I just read somewhere that to be a Pakistani you have to be a Muslim first and a Pakistani second. Recommend

  • Stephen Hickson

    the communist regime of Afghanistan was highly Tajik and marginalized the majority holder Pushtoon…we need to differenciate between Afghans and Afghan-Pushtoons…we are one nation one blood with the Pushtoons…Recommend

  • Stephen Hickson

    They are becoming citizens illegally by forging ther family tree..thats how much desperate they are to stay in Pakistan..why dont you take a few thousands of them and settle them in Delhi..Recommend

  • Stephen Hickson

    India is the cancer spreading everywhere from kashmir to sri lankaRecommend

  • Stephen Hickson

    many illegal pakistanis have been deported from gulf and west nobody cried foul..Recommend

  • Stephen Hickson

    Afghans can only be dealth wth a fist…Recommend

  • Stephen Hickson

    we can host them again if americans can start paying again..Recommend

  • Stephen Hickson

    his name ends with mohmand and 99% chance he is true pushtoonRecommend

  • Stephen Hickson

    If they want to stay legally that is registering this business, paying taxes and getting permanent residency then we have no problem..but these afghans are criminals they are counterfeiting Pakistani citizenship and running unregistered business to evade taxes..this harms our local industryRecommend

  • Stephen Hickson

    if afghan govt is going to suck up to india while we host 3 million of their own then its no more friendship..bye bye afghans.Recommend

  • Syed Bushra

    Shukriya Mureeb Mohmand sahib for your blog posts. I read them, re-read them because they have taught me so much about places in Pakistan that I’ve only heard of but have never visited. Because of you, I feel I know the people I’ve never met and their issues. Please keep writing and raising awareness. We need voices like yours!

    Personally, I feel we should allow Afghans who have been living in Pakistan a path to citizenship. They have lived in Pakistan their entire lives. They are Pakistani. What do these people know about Afghanistan? Nothing!

    To Sikandar, or any Afghan like him, I apologise for the hurtful remarks my fellow Paksitani have made towards you. Afghan have been good to us and Pakistan. I urge Sikandar to complete his education and stay in Pakistan. Things will get better if you stay in school, inshallah.Recommend

  • Raj Desai

    Afghanistan is problem in the region no matter which way you cut it. Thankfully India never got into this mess. Familiarity breeds contempt. The further we can stay away from Afghanistan, the better our relationship can be with them.Recommend

  • WookieBrown

    Sure did.

    The UNHCR in Pakistan has poorly funded. In 2015, it only received $33.6 million out of its $136.7 million annual budget. Do you think the rest fell out of the sky? How much have you contributed to Afghan refugee fund? Talk is cheap.

    Better yet, Afghans in Pakistan were not treated like they were in Iran where they are boxed in a camp and forced to live in miserable conditions. Pakistan allowed Afghans to live anywhere they like in Pakistan. They could work, run a business, and marry in Pakistan.

    Tribune: Afghan refugees hit by aid cuts

  • WookieBrown

    I disagree with this approach.

    A few bad apples does not imply we stereotype all Afghans. There are good and bad people everywhere. Why should Afghans be any different?Recommend

  • WookieBrown

    With due respect, is UK in Pakistan? Afghans in Pakistan are different. They have grew up in Pakistan, they love Pakistan just as you and I.Recommend

  • WookieBrown

    Where is Indian humanity when Narendra Modi tells Bangladeshis migrants to pack their bags?

    Narendra Modi: Bangladeshi immigrants must pack up

    Narendra Modi making such remarks looks much worse when you realise he presided over pogroms in Gujarat that led to the murder of thousands of Muslims and Hindus. He is known to promote communal hatred.

  • Syed Bushra

    We, Pakistanis, love you, Maria!
    We, Pakistanis, stand with you!
    We, Pakistanis, want you in Pakistan!
    We, Pakistanis, stand with Afghans!

    Pakistan is your home too, do no let anyone tell you otherwise!Recommend

  • Anoop

    Bangladesh is not Afghanistan. They are Economic migrants. India is supporting Bangladesh to get on its feet and its GDP will cross Pakistan’s GDP in about 10 years!
    Sending them back to Bangladesh is not inhuman.
    Jinnah called for and presided the 1946 Direct Action call .
    But, you have problems with Modi, who was acquitted by a free court system, which couldn’t find any evidence against him.
    Please think independently for once and not follow the state narrative!Recommend

  • WookieBrown

    Anoop, you are a victim of institutional thinking when you overlook facts. Several Indian journalists penned books that reveal Narendra Modi’s involvement in Gujarat pogroms.

    Gujarat Files: The Anatomy of a Cover-Up by Rana Ayyub is just the latest book detailing the indictments.

    This comes as no surprise as Narendra Modi has been asociated with the Hindu far-right. Here is Modi with Swami Aseemanand, a person involved in the terrorism incident in Samjhauta Express:

    And a sad indictment of Indian judicial system:

    As for Bangladesh, I wish them well. Indian does not hence the mistreatment of Bangladeshis continue including the killing of innocent people by Indian Border Security Force. This is well documented by Human Rights Watch.

    2012: India: Prosecute Security Forces for Torture

    2012: India: Abuses by Border Force Increasing

    2011: India: New Killings, Torture at Bangladeshi Border

    2010: India/Bangladesh: Indiscriminate Killings, Abuse by Border Officers

    2010: “Trigger Happy”
    Excessive Use of Force by Indian Troops at the Bangladesh Border