KABUL (Pajhwok): Pakistan-based Afghan journalists have complained they are facing several problems such as the expiry of visas, passports, harassment by police and economic hardships.
After the political change in August 2021 in Afghanistan, thousands of people left the country, including journalists, politicians and officials of the former government.
A number of Afghan journalists, who are currently staying in Pakistan, complain about several problems they are facing.
The expiry of visas and passports, harassment by Pakistani police for lack of legal documents, house searches, paying bribes to avoid detention, financial handicaps and high rents are among the problems they are facing in Pakistan.
Haunted by an uncertain fate, some of them are suffering from mental illnesses and their children are missing out on an education.
200-300 journalists facing many problems
Mahmood Kochi, who has worked with many media outlets, including the BBC and National Radio Television, is one of the journalists staying in Pakistan for the past six months.
He told Pajhwok Afghan News around 200 journalists and media people were stationed in Pakistan, facing economic constraints.
He said: “The visas of Afghan journalist have expired and it is a serious issue because they are unable to go outside due to police fear.”
He blamed relevant United Nations’ agencies for not documenting Afghan journalists and failing to provide any assistance for them.
He claimed some Afghans had been sent to Canada, America and European states as journalists. According to him, deserving journalists have not been evacuated to third countries.
Khaleda Tahseen, who had worked as manager for the Kilid Radio, is currently living in Pakistan.
She said: “We are staying in a country without economic or political stability. All journalists are unemployed and are facing a miserable situation. Pakistani police are harassing the Afghans for not having legal documents.”
Tahseen added Afghan journalists were facing severe economic problems due to unemployment in Pakistan.
According to her, some Afghan journalists, especially their spouses and children, are suffering from psychological problems.
Abdullah Walizada, another Islamabad-based Afghan journalist, said: “Visas of most media people, including myself, have expired. When we meet police, they demand bribes and if we refuse, they harass us.”
He claimed: “UNHCR has a mafia system in Pakistan. Only those who are familiar with officials of this agency can get an immigration card and can use it.”
A former Ariana News worker, Nasreen Sherzad, is also stranded in Islamabad. Without going into details, she said international institutions had promised to help the Afghan journalists living in Pakistan before evacuating them to other countries. But they were not even responding to their calls, she alleged.
Another female journalist in Islamabad, who declined to be named, verified the problems of Afghan media personnel and said: “One key problem pertains to visas. The visas of all journalists, including mine, have run out.”
She said the Pakistani police approach their houses for investigations, stop them in the market, on roads and street and seek bribes and threaten them with deportation to Afghanistan.
He claimed and added: “Mafia system has been established in the UNHCR and SHARP Office in Pakistan. Individuals who have relatives or have relationship get their refugee card on time. The first interview is conducted in one of the SHARP offices and later the UNHCR contact the interviewer for registration. Over the past few months my and some other journalists’ interview had taken place but the end result is still unknown and the UNHRC did not establish contact with us.”
SHARP Head Syed Lyaqat Bonairi, however, rejected these comments.
“Will there be such tyrant people to do this tyranny with Afghans. We made announcements in loudspeakers to inform people not to give money to anyone. Individuals who came to our office had saw and heard everything. Had we been mafia we would never spread awareness related massages,” he said.
He added SHARP office in Pakistan register Afghan refugees and the information is sent to the UNHCR office. Apart from this SHARP office has nothing to do with any other procedure.
“We offer 24 hours service, we fight for them daily, write articles in newspapers, conduct interviews and engaged in legislation with the government. We spared nothing to serve these people but instead of thanks they leveled accusations on us.”
He added his office provided support in the release of Afghan prisoners and transfer of bodies and allocated all its resources for the service of Afghan refugees.
He said: “Prominent mafia in Pakistan is refugees themselves, we arrested people who charged other Afghans 30,000 Pak rupees on fake forms and sent them to us.”
Efforts on to resolve existing issues: Mujadidi
Hujatullah Mujadidi, head of the Afghanistan’s Independent Journalists Association, said up to 300 Afghan journalists and media workers live in Pakistan and faced multiple problems.
He added: “The most prominent issue is related to their documents, three months earlier we had a meeting with the Pakistan Journlaists Federation and Islamabad Press Club three months earlier on the Afghan journalists visa and other issues. We also discussed the issue with the UNHCR to provide Afghan journalists with special cards. We also urged the Islamabad Press Club to issue cards to Afghan journalist who assured us of full cooperation.”
Mujadidi said he conveyed to Afghan journalists representatives in Pakistan to share their list with him so that he could share it with the international institutions from where they will get support.
He said in Kabul he remained in contact with the UNHCR and UNAMA offices to help resolve Afghan journalists’ issues in Pakistan.
World should implement pledges made with Afghan journalist in Pakistan: Qanit
International Relations Expert Abdul Hai Qanit said: “I believe the pledge that the international community has made with Afghan journalists and invited them to Pakistan should be implemented.”
Referring to the UNHCR office in Pakistan, Qanit said: “UNHCR send people to other country on the bases of demand from that particular country but the real responsible is the one who pledged to these journalists.”
“Afghanistan and Pakistan could not afford to send these journalists to foreign country; Afghanistan could only create an environment of trust. If these journalist want going abroad it is their personal wish but if they want to go due to fear then the Afghan government should talk to them, resolve their problem so they could return to their country,” he added.
This comes that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) often called on journalists in Pakistan to return to their country.
The matter of problems faced by Afghan journalists in Pakistan was shared with Pakistani embassy in Kabul, UNHCR Office in Pakistan and Foreign Ministry in Afghanistan but these sources have yet shared their views.