Afghan refugee women, clad in a burqa, climb on a truck to be repatriated to Afghanistan, at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office on the outskirts of Peshawar Favaz Aziz/Reuters
(Reuters) – Afghan immigrants ordered out of Pakistan in what officials say is a bid to root out militants are, some analysts say, scapegoats being used to distract attention from the authorities’ failure to end violence.
Thousands of Afghans unnerved by threats of arrest and growing hostility towards them have flocked out of Pakistan back home, leaving behind boarded-up shops, houses and restaurants.
Within hours of a Dec. 16 attack on a school in the city of Peshawar in which more than 150 people were killed, officials pointed the finger at Afghanistan and vowed to crack down on illegal immigrants whom they say furnish a cover for militants.
Thousands of Afghans have since left, with long queues of cars loaded with belongings snaking through the Khyber Pass up to the border. Many more are packing their bags in Peshawar and preparing to leave.
Shahkirullah Sabawoon, an Afghan clothes merchant in Peshawar, described a grim atmosphere as he prepared to leave.
“Pakistan is our second home and we have invested billions of rupees in different businesses but police … are asking us to shut our businesses and leave the country,” he said…