Afghan Refugees and Politics in Pakistan

Author: Saba Gul Khattak


This article highlights the impact of international politics and war upon refugees' lives, asserting that the humanitarian aid that refugees receive is contingent upon interstate and intrastate politics. Indeed, the role of the state becomes contentious as it becomes the source of security as well as insecurity in the lives of refugees. This role is guided by self-interest rather than humanitarian concerns. In the Afghan case, we find that humanitarian aid has sometimes been used to perpetuate endless wars and violence in Afghanistan. This aid was also been used to portray a picture of Afghanistan pivoted on an anti-Soviet struggle through the strengthening of fundamentalist strains in Afghan thinking. The latter affected women and children negatively as different actors within the camps — the Afghan political leadership, donor agencies, and Pakistani administrative structures — manipulated particular images of the ideal family and of the role of women. Women have had to face multiple levels and layers of violence just as men have had to contend with an intensified view of masculinity that naturalizes inflicting violence upon others. Refugees have unnecessarily borne the brunt of the aftermath of regional and international politics, as they have had to contend with both direct and structural violence.

Regions: Central Asia
Countries: Afghanistan

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© 1998 ILO/Maillard J.