Pakistani soldiers check travelling documents of the Afghan nationals as they gather at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman (AP)
KARACHI: Pakistani human smugglers operating in areas bordering Afghanistan are raking in money as thousands of Afghans try to exit their country by clandestine means following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban.
Thousands of Afghans are fleeing Afghanistan to escape the new Taliban regime and seek asylum in different nations, including the US and many European nations, in quest of a better living environment.
“Business has been booming even before the Taliban entered Kabul. We have smuggled in around 1,000 people from across the border since last week and business is booming,” Hameed Gul, who operates from a small town near the Chaman-Spin Boldak border with Afghanistan, told PTI over telephone.
He was reluctant to divulge how much they charge for smuggling the Afghani people into Pakistan, but Hameed was also the only one willing to speak to this correspondent but he also confirmed that there were others like him operating from near border towns.
“These people are afraid of what will happen under the Taliban rule and just want to get out of Afghanistan in whatever way possible and for that they are willing to pay whatever we demand and also be smuggled into Pakistan,” he said.
He said the human smugglers operate clandestinely from border areas and use their own transport to smuggle the Afghanis into Pakistan.
A source, who is aware of this human smuggling racket, said they mostly operate from border areas like Chaman, Chaghi and Badani in the restive Balochistan province.
The source said most of the unofficial refugees tend to move onto Quetta or other Pakistani cities once they are safely in Pakistan and some of them already have relatives working in Karachi or Quetta who are there to support them.
Dr Shah Muhammad Marri, who runs a literary magazine out of Quetta, said that the smuggling of Afghans have been taking place even before the Taliban took over.
“This influx of people from Afghanistan has been going on even before the Taliban takeover of Kabul,” he said.
“I think this year alone some 55,000 Afghanis have already entered Pakistan via Balochistan, mostly children and women, as they just want to flee the war and conflict there,” he said.
Marri said most of the Afghans who have entered Pakistan through Balochistan belong to the ethnic Hazara Shia Muslim community or Tajiks.
An official, who works with the Sindh Police Counter Terrorism Department and did not wished to be named, said they were aware of a large number of Afghans making their way into Karachi over the last few days after feeling from Afghanistan.
“These are the unofficial refugees who are smuggled into Pakistan from via Balochistan and they tend to mix very quickly with the Afghan population on the outskirts of Karachi,” he said.
For the last many years a proper Afghan village has existed near the National highway linking Karachi to the rest of Pakistan while there are also other smaller Afghan settlements near Sohrab Goth from where the highway starts to exit Karachi.
Taj Wali, a Afghan cloth trader who has been living in Karachi for the last 25 years and is now legally registered as a Pakistan citizen, said he is not surprised at the influx of his countrymen as they just want security and peace which has been missing in Afghanistan since the Russian invasion.
“Like so many other refugees around the world they just want to live a normal peaceful life,” he said.