Afghan parliament is a drama”
Many of us have
recently had the experience of receiving a phone call from Pakistan
Tehreek-e-Insaf Chief Imran Khan and hearing a message in his husky voice for
not less than 30 seconds. This message is pre-recorded but for a moment one
believed he himself was on line and asking the recipients to attend his
There were those also who
had a feeling of being too important to be called up by Imran and kept
investigating as to how he got their number. These calls, known as robocalls,
targeted hundreds of thousands of people in Karachi and there were scores of
interesting stories by the recipients.
A TV channel aired the
interview of an extremely poor person who had come from Hyderabad. When
questioned, he said he had received a personal call from Imran on his mobile
phone, and had no reason not to reject the invite.
The message in Urdu (when
translated into English) was: “Assalam-u-Alaikum. This is Imran Khan. How
are you? I’m coming to your city to bring everyone together on December 25
at Mazar-e-Quaid for a rally. I hope you can break all the shackles and take
part because at this rally we need to make the beginning of a new Pakistan. I
will be waiting, Thank you.”
This newer way of
contacting the targeted audience has received mixed response. The PTI camp is
terming it an indicator of how forward-looking and innovative the party is
whereas the opponents are calling it a type of spam calling. The PML-N
loyalists claim it was their leader Mian Nawaz Sharif who tried this option
much before Imran, but have no answer when asked why he is not using this
This scribe, who is based
in Lahore, also received a similar call in which he was requested to attend
the PTI jalsa in Ayub Park, Quetta. It appeared quite contrary to the PTI
claim that only a specific set of people is targeted and calls are not
random. Anyhow, the experience of receiving the call was quite interesting.
Dr Awab Alvi, author of
Teeth Maestro blog and the mind behind the PTI’s social media initiative,
tells TNS the idea of using robocalls to reach people paid back a lot. Though
there were a few problems in the start, things got better later on. For
example, he says the company they hired started making calls as early in the
morning as 6 am on weekend which perturbed many, but on the whole masses
enjoyed hearing Imran Khan’s voice.
Awab, who himself recorded
Imran’s message, says they have set a trend which others may follow.
However, he is clear that calls made by other leaders may not have equal
acceptance or appeal. His point is people want to hear Khan’s voice on
their phones and not that of Mian Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari etc. “They may
be political leaders but do not have the charisma of Imran Khan.”
Awab disagrees with the
people who call robocalls a spamming tool. “When you receive a call for the
first time it is not spam, but when someone keeps calling you and you are not
interested in the call, it’s a spam.” He tells TNS that in foreign
countries the telemarketing companies have to maintain a Do Not Call Register
(DNCR). Any person who does not want to receive further calls from a
telemarketer can get his number registered here and will not be called, he
says, adding he has heard that Pakistan Telecommunication Authority is also
working on these lines.
On the cost of calls, he
does not disclose any figure but terms it to be a specially negotiated one
with a Lahore-based company Global IT Vision. The company, Awab says, has a
leaning towards the PTI and, therefore, they got an ideal package.
Anyhow a visit to the
company’s website shows that standard costs offered for robocalls are Rs
3.75 per call for a 15-second message, Rs 6.6 per call for a 30-second
message, and Rs 9.3 per call for a one-minute message. Minimum order quantity
is 50,000 messages based on 30 days consumption period. The PTI is believed
to have made robocalls at 300,000 landlines in Karachi alone, costing the
party over Rs two million.
Awab says more robocalls
would soon be made but this time the audience would be registered subscribers
of the PTI who have not provided their NIC numbers to the party. When asked
who provides the data for calls, he says the PTI maintains data of those
registered through 80022 SMS service, whereas Global IT Vision has its own
Omar Zaheer, CEO of Global
IT Vision, tells TNS his company is the only legitimate company in Pakistan
offering robocall services. The service, he says, is highly cost effective as
the message is delivered to each and every person on the target audience
list. Another benefit, he says, is that billing is made only against the
calls successfully executed and received.
He says that robocalls were
used extensively during the 2008 elections by Nawaz Sharif, in the Lawyer’s
Movement and the “Go Musharraf Go Movement” etc. As the company has a
natural tilt towards the PTI, it seems Nawaz Sharif has distanced himself
from it, says Omar who is the Chief Coordinator of the PTI election cell in
This form of communication
becomes highly important when there is no electricity to power televisions,
radio sets etc and literacy level is so low, especially in rural areas, that
people hardly read newspapers.
On spamming charge, he
clarifies that his company is well established in the country and has tried
and tested data in its base. “Calls are always target-oriented and not at
all made at random.”
Samina, 43, a Lahore-based
media person, brushes the ‘target-oriented’ claim aside. “What do they
mean by target-oriented. My privacy is invaded when I get an unwanted phone
A PTA official shares with
TNS they are working on a plan to make telemarketers maintain DNCR. This
provision has been there in the PTA regulations namely “Protection from
Spam, Unsolicited, Fraudulent and Obnoxious Communication Regulations,
2009” but could not be enforced even after the passage of three years.
The killing of a
young woman working for women’s rights in conservative Khyber Agency
bordering Peshawar on July 4, 2012, was another testimony to the fact that it
is too dangerous for women to work in areas infested with militants. Fareeda
Kokikhel, director of Sawaira — an NGO in Khyber tribal region — was shot
dead hardly a kilometre off her home in Ghundi area of Jamrud tehsil of
Khyber tribal region.
Kokikhel’s brutal murder
lends enough weight to the threats issued against NGOs in conservative
Kohistan. This land of mighty mountains has grabbed the media attention for
some time now for all the odd happenings. Recently, about 150 ulema of
Kohistan issued a fatwa declaring activities of non-government organisations
This is not the first
unusual fatwa that has surfaced from this land as a powerful cleric of the
area and a former lawmaker, Maulana Haleem, recently asked NGO women, during
a Friday sermon, not to enter Kohistan otherwise they would forcibly be
married off to Kohistani boys. The same cleric also gave a fatwa that using
niswar (chewing tobacco) does not break fasting.
Social customs in this
difficult mountainous terrain are so strong that the state machinery seems
helpless against them.
With the promulgation of
Sharia Nizam-e-Adl regulation on January 16, 1999, the judicial system
throughout the Kohistan district is managed through Qazi Courts, Zilla Qazi
(district and sessions judge), Alla Allaqa Qazi (senior civil judge) and
Allaqa Qazi (judicial magistrate). But despite these Sharia courts, the
centuries old Jirga system is popular among the general people, who want to
get their issues resolved through it.
Kohistan and adjoining districts gave very cautious responses when asked
about fatwas by ulema against activities of NGOs — the main reason being
general elections activities that have already started there. No lawmaker
from the opposition or the treasury wants to get involved in any controversy.
lawmakers could lose their popularity or even seat in the assemblies by
speaking against ulema in Kohistan because they enjoy immense influence in
the area. But statements of lawmakers are apparently too good to believe.
Mehmood Alam, a PPP MPA
from Kohistan, vehemently denied that NGOs have ever been threatened in his
areas. He says they are actively working in the district for over a decade
and nobody has ever created problems. He says he does not know whether any
fatwa declaring activities of NGOs haram has been issued. “It does not
matter if somebody has said anything against NGOs in his personal capacity as
fatwa is issued in a written form. Verbal fatwa has no value.”
However, he says, NGOs
should work in the district while keeping the local traditions in mind.
“NGOs should not send their female staff to far flung areas of the
district. This is a difficult hilly terrain and female staff could face
KP Forest Minister Wajid
Ali Khan, an ANP MPA from Swat, says situation on the ground is different
from what was reported in the media. He says if the media reports
discrimination against women in Kohistan or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the same is
happening in other parts of the country. However, he admits Kohistan district
is a very backward area in terms of girl education, adding the provincial
government is taking several steps to promote girl education. “We have made
a policy to give Rs1500 to Rs2000 per student financial aid to parents for
sending their daughters to schools.”
Dr Haider Ali, another ANP
MPA from Swat, says there is no threat to NGOs in their area. “Swat and
Kohistan share almost same culture and environment. In both districts, NGOs
are encouraged to work because people know that they are working for our
welfare and betterment.” But like all other MPAs, he also says NGOs should
work while remaining in the cultural bounds of the area.
Women rights activist, Dr
Farzana Bari, says fatwas and jirgas are never documented, therefore, nobody
could produce evidence against them. She says information about jirgas or
fatwa leaks only through the people who attend jirgas or journalists working
in these isolated areas. She contradicted the statements of lawmakers from
Kohistan and adjoining area that NGOs face no threats there. “The ANP
claims to be a liberal political party, but it struck a deal with Taliban in
Swat for political benefits. Even this party defends the cruel jirga
Dr Bari says, “Kohistan
is not the only place where NGOs are facing threats. In other areas,
including Northern Areas, Dir and Malakand, NGOs have to suspend operations
after threats.” She says the state machinery is totally inactive in the
area as there is no police and no court in Kohistan.
Property agents and
heroin addicts have one quality in common: they are compulsive liars. No, our
brand new prime minister doesn’t belong in the same list. A politician’s
lies are strategic statements and serve a purpose — Mr Raja wouldn’t be
PM today if he hadn’t distinguished himself as a serial liar while being
minister in charge of power cuts. Compulsive liars on the other hand lie not
because they see a benefit in it but because they fear truth. They don’t
decide to lie, the lie decides to do them. The wiring in their brain
identifies truth as a potential pitfall and blots it out while processing the
reply to a simple question like: When are you getting here?
A heroin addict with
visible withdrawal symptoms visits a friend and fellow podri nice and early
in the morning: “I ran out of poder last night. Been awake and super
miserable since then. You know how it is bro. Please let me have a chase,
just one chase.
That’s terrible buddy but
sorry, I had friends over last night, finished all the stuff I had. I’ll
try and get some this evening.
This evening? I won’t
survive that long bro. Look at me, I am shivering all over, I can hardly
stand on my feet, my heart is murmuring its last … you know you are my only
friend bro, you must have a little bit left over. Come on bro …
Swear on my father, mother
and grand parents I don’t have any at all.
Then do it as a favour bro.
I need your charity. Save my life today and I’ll return you the favour some
day. Come on bro …
Swear on God and the holy
book we used up the deposit on the coin and inside the sucking pipe too.
Come on bro …
Swear on mosque’s
loudspeaker and prayer mat I am telling you the truth.
Come on bro …”
This dialogue goes on for
as long as the two can push, and then the host takes out a little plastic bag
from somewhere and both sit down with a silver foil between them to chase
heroin. And it happens at least once every week but the frequency doesn’t
take away spontaneity of the situation, emotional involvement of both actors,
and freshness of their lines.
Property dealers are just
as natural, though not even half as dramatic. They have their own reasons to
treat lying as an essential business tool, like a stethoscope to a doctor.
For one, their business is a lie. No one asks them to provide a service but
they expect to be paid a service fee every time a tenancy contract is signed
between two parties, simply because they showed the property to the
The owner puts up a ‘to
let’ sign on the property. The agent spots it during his survey — which
is a fancy term for going around every street of a particular sector, every
day, looking for signs — and advertises it in free classifieds. He also
puts dummy ads for spacious, stylish, and solid properties at throw away
prices and rents. The clients who take the bait, are fated to view his entire
current inventory rather than only what they wish to see. Many a time the
property is viewed only from outside because the agent can’t find someone
to open the door. So much for ‘showing’ the property.
If the client settles for
something, the agent shifts into the next gear of lying. ‘The owner is
abroad’, ‘owner’s mother-in-law just died’, and statements to this
effect simply mean he is trying to find out who the owner is. ‘I have
recommended you to the landlord’ is the confirmation that he’s found the
owner. And ‘I’ll let you talk directly with the owner’ means he has
already been blacklisted by this party he’s avoiding. He’ll not put you
on to the owner for any other reason.
Those who buy and sell
large portions of real estate, however, are cured of the pathological
disorder of lying. The money they amassed by lying during their time as a
small time agent affords them the power to do as they like, admit their
frauds in public, and look law in the eye before putting it back in their
pocket when confronted on their self-confessed crookedness.
So young women and men, go
out there and try to be the next real estate tycoon. If you fail you can
always join the swelling ranks of drug abusers. But you’ll have to learn to
lie in either case.
Council sponsored Long March took 36 long hours to reach Islamabad from
Lahore in order to raise alarm bells in the power corridors against the
resumption of Nato supplies to Afghanistan through the Pakistani soil.
The DPC, an alliance of
Taliban supporters and sympathisers, religious parties, politicians and
former generals, had vowed to resist the reopening of supply routes and the
long march towards Islamabad was their first show of strength, to be followed
by more marches.
A few thousand people
participated in the march, comprising hundreds of (empty) buses with people
on their rooftops, carrying Jamaatud Dawa flags throughout the way. The
caravan was led by the religious parties’ top hierarchy mostly travelling
in expensive land cruisers with well-armed bodyguards of the DPC.
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, chief
of JUD, who concluded the march in front of the Parliament House on July 9,
2012, said, “We are defending Pakistan just like Madina. Afghans are just
like our brothers who have the same faith, practice and beliefs. Our jihad is
aimed at restoring peace and ousting infidels and enemies from Pakistan. We
will invite everyone to Islam and we will wage jihad if some country attacks
His speech was less focused
on the Nato supply; rather it was seen as another attempt to advocate the
DPC’s usual agenda of mobilising people against America and India. He
stressed upon the DPC members to prepare for an “Islamic revolution”
following the Tahrir Square uprising. “We will have to get rid of America
and maintain this pace of resistance for an Islamic revolution and system in
the country,” he said. “India, our enemy, has benefited much from this
American intervention and control in Pakistan. India has developed a
strategic partnership with America and has dropped a ‘water bomb’ on
Pakistan by building 62 dams after blocking Pakistan’s water. We will have
to break this nexus.”
The march was controlled
and managed by the JUD’s own well-armed security personnel wearing special
khaki and black uniforms. The markets were open throughout the route of the
march on the GT Road, but at some points shops were closed down temporarily
until the march passed by.
Muhammad Talha, a bearded
young man carrying a JUD flag, was very excited to be a part of the long
march. He says their mission is to block American supply line and oust the
Americans and partners from this region. “Afghans are our Muslim brothers
and we are their sympathisers and supporters. We will not let the American
and western agenda to be imposed on this Muslim society.”
“I don’t know what are
they up to. Yes, I am against Nato supply, but I don’t think that we can do
anything,” says Muhammad Siddique, 47, a shopkeeper who was waiting for
customers in his garments shop in Shahadra on the GT Road. “These religious
parties are just polishing their politics.”
“This is useless
politics. Why should we join it?” asks Muhammad Imran, 20, who was playing
cricket with his friends along the GT Road while the caravan passed by.
Maulana Samiul Haq,
chairman DPC, termed the long march an attempt to bring “Islamic
revolution”. “This march will help create awareness among the masses
against the “crusade” being waged by Jews, Hindus and Christians,” he
Ayaz Amir, columnist and
MNA, tells TNS the DPC show is being seen as a face-saving attempt. “The
DPC had announced it would not let the Nato supply reopen but this happened
and the religious groups in the councils could do nothing,” he says. “The
significance and credibility of the DPC would have been maintained if they
had not allowed restoration of the supply.”
Amir says there is an
impression that the DPC enjoys backing of certain ‘powerful’ elements.
“Pakistan’s history shows that political and religious parties with
“certain connections” and backing by “certain elements” always enjoy
power and form governments.”
Lt Gen (retd) Talat Masood
says that the DPC projects a bad image of Pakistan and the world thinks they
are promoting Islamic radicalism and anti-west and anti-US sentiments through
their activities and massive propaganda. “These elements say nothing about
the brazen attacks on security forces taking place almost everyday in
different parts of the country.”
He says that after the
restoration of Nato supply, which is obviously opened with the army’s
consent, the DPC is trying to promote its radical agenda by making this issue
as an excuse. He says that these non-state actors will continue to project
their agenda unless the state and especially the military establishment
clearly decides to stop these elements.
To further mobilise the
public, the DPC has announced marches on the routes of Nato supply on
Quetta-Chaman and Peshawar-Torkham roads later this month.
The march reached Islamabad
in front of the Parliament House from The Mall Lahore in 36 hours after a
night’s stay in Gujrat where seven soldiers were killed by unknown Taliban.
The leadership. The foot
soldiers (below). Photos by Rahat Dar.
Malalai Joya is an
Afghan activist, writer and an outspoken critic of the Afghan warlords, the
Karzai government and the US role in her country. In 2003, Joya became famous
by speaking out publicly, as an elected delegate to the Constitutional Loya
Jirga, against the domination of warlords. In September 2005, she became a
member of the parliament (Wolesi Jirga) when she received the second highest
number of votes in her home province Farah.
However, she was suspended
on May 21, 2007, for continuing to criticise the warlords and drug barons for
destroying her country. Joya wears a burqa to disguise her identity after
surviving six assassination attempts and lives in different safe-houses.
In 2010, Time magazine
called her one of the world’s 100 most influential people, Foreign Policy
magazine listed her among its Top Global Thinkers and BBC termed her ‘the
bravest woman of Afghanistan’.
Joya was born in 1978, and
is married with no children. At her safe-house in Kabul, The News on Sunday
got an opportunity to talk to her on issues relating to security situation,
parliamentary development and women’s rights in Afghanistan.
The News on Sunday: How did
you enter politics in a war-ravaged country like Afghanistan?
Malalai Joya: I belong to a
middle-class family of Farah province. Because of the worse security
situation, my family migrated to Iran and then Pakistan to live as refugees.
Due to financial problems, I got education till grade 12 in Peshawar. In
1998, we came back to Herat province of Southern Afghanistan where I started
teaching. At that time, it was a dangerous venture as Taliban strictly
forbade educating girls beyond the age of eight. For those who broke the
rules, extreme punishments were meted out. I still remember some horrific
memories of the Taliban rule. Along with running an underground school, I was
also active in social activities which helped me in my election as a member
of parliament in 2005 from Farah province.
TNS: Why was your
parliament membership suspended?
MJ: I contested the
elections because I wanted to highlight the sufferings of Afghans. Women and
children suffered the most during the civil war and the Taliban rule. But I
found the parliament a drama and not a democratic institution. I knew from
the very first day in the parliament that it is a meeting place for the worst
enemies of the Afghan people. Majority of the MPs are warlords, drug lords
and human rights violators. It has not brought anything positive to the
Afghan people in the past years and it will not do anything for the Afghan
people in future.
In May 2006, my membership
from the parliament was suspended just because I criticised the warlords and
drug lords sitting in the parliament who were involved in destruction of my
country and killing of thousands of innocent people. I was physically and
verbally attacked by fellow members of the parliament.
TNS: How has Afghanistan
changed since the fall of Taliban?
MJ: The current situation
of Afghanistan is a disaster and is getting worse. The US and its allies
occupied Afghanistan after September 11, 2001, under the pretext of bringing
peace, democracy and women’s rights. But they replaced the barbaric Taliban
with the brutal Mujahideen associated with Northern Alliance who look
different but are mentally similar. They were in power before the Taliban and
in Kabul alone they had killed more than 65,000 innocent people.
The US destroyed
Afghanistan for taking revenge from the USSR. Today, Afghanistan is not only
a safe haven for terrorists, it is a mafia state and is ranked at the top of
the most unstable and corrupt countries in the world. Afghanistan produces 93
per cent of the world opium and even some ministers are involved in this
TNS: What is the state of
women in Afghanistan today?
MJ: The situation for women
is as terrible today as it was before. In some big cities, some women and
girls have access to jobs and education, but in most provinces women’s
lives are hell. In rural areas, most women do not even have a human life.
Forced marriages, child brides and domestic violence are very common.
TNS: How do you see
Afghanistan after the US and Nato forces withdraw in 2014?
MJ: In my opinion, al-Qaeda,
Taliban, Mujahideen, drug lords and warlords are products of the White
House’s cold war. The announcement of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan
is the Obama’s administration’s political gimmick which they used to
deceive the American people in order to win the upcoming US elections. No
nation can liberate another nation.
On the one hand, the US is
talking about pulling out its troops from Afghanistan and on the other they
are busy signing new strategic agreements and increasing military bases in
Afghanistan. The US would not withdraw troops from Afghanistan as announced,
because they have geo-political and strategic interests in the region.
Unfortunately, all neighbours of Afghanistan, including Pakistan, Iran,
Russia and China, are their enemies and all of them want to occupy the
natural resources and minerals of the country.
The level of our people’s
political consciousness and awareness has raised and they do not accept the
domination of foreign invaders or local criminal forces any more. This gives
me hope for a bright future.
TNS: How do you see the
ongoing peace negotiations with Taliban?
MJ: All the key leaders of
Taliban are present in Afghanistan. Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, Mullah Wakil
Ahmed Mutawakkil and Mullah Rahmatullah Hashmi, all are roaming in Kabul
freely. The Afghan people want to put them (Taliban) in the cages, but the
Karzai government is busy appeasing them by calling them ‘brothers’ and
‘moderate Taliban’ and deceiving Afghan people.
TNS: What is your opinion
about the Afghan presidential elections 2014?
MJ: Talking of elections in
the world’s most corrupt, mafia-ridden, and occupied country like
Afghanistan is ridiculous. The Afghan parliament is working as a mouthpiece
for the imperialist forces. The Afghan people have no interest in the
elections where such infamous elements are candidates. That is why millions
of Afghans don’t exercise their voting rights, and this truth is also
corroborated by international independent election monitoring organisations.
People know well that there is no difference between Hamid Karzai and
TNS: What security
precautions have you taken after life threats?
MJ: Since I was expelled
from the parliament, life has been very difficult for me inside Afghanistan.
I have been restricted from free movement and meeting people in different
parts of Afghanistan, so I have tried to advance my efforts on international
platforms. I change places often and can’t have an office. I wear a burqa
outside and travel with private bodyguards. I don’t attend public meetings.
But I still don’t feel safe. The expenses of bodyguards are paid by
contributions of my local and international supporters, anti-war and leftist
(The writer conducted this
interview in Kabul where he was part of the Pak-Afghan Media Exchange
Programme. Email; zia_ [email protected])
With the collapse
of Mahammad Siad Barre’s dictatorial regime in 1991, Somalia plunged into a
state of anarchy dominated by ethnic clashes. Amidst abysmal state of
affairs, Somali citizens were forced to abandon their homeland and migrate to
countries across the globe for safety. Pakistan is also home to over 4000
“My parents migrated to
Pakistan back in the 90s as the security conditions worsened back in Somalia.
My grandparents, uncles and aunts stayed back in hope of a stable future.
However, my parents felt it was necessary to raise us in a secure
environment,” says Fateema Hassan, a Somali medical student residing in
Fateema and her family are
scheduled to return to Somalia this year as their Proof of Registration (POR)
Cards, issued by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in
collaboration with Nadra, are expiring in December 2012. Fateema adds,
“Though Pakistan has provided my family a secure environment, our future in
Pakistan is unpredictable.” Fateema fears that if the UNHCR and the
Pakistani government fail to decide about the status of Somali refugees by
the end of this year, all Somali refugees will be deported back to their
Mohammad Abidi, an employee
at the Society for Human Rights and Prisoner’s Aid (SHARP), a project of
the UNHCR, and a student at the Punjab University’s Department of Pharmacy,
interacts with his fellow countrymen in Pakistan on a regular basis to ensure
their safety. Abidi states: “Somali refugees in Pakistan can be classified
into two categories. The first category includes families which reside in
urban centres like Islamabad and Karachi while the second consists of
students. These students migrate to Pakistan to pursue degrees in Medicine,
Pharmacy and Engineering.”
Abidi says, “Pakistani
universities offering affordable education are popular amongst the Somali
youth which is not enjoying the same opportunities in their homeland.”
“Even though these
Somalis acquire education in Pakistan they are unable to make any use of it
if they continue staying here,” elaborates Abidi. “The language barrier
is the primary problem Somalis face here which also hinders them from doing
well at university.”
However, their problems
don’t end here. Most Somali families residing in small neighbourhoods in
Karachi and Islamabad are facing financial problems. “Like most members of
my community, I am being financed by my family back home. Even though the
amount they send doesn’t suffice, something is better than nothing,
especially given that I’ve been unemployed for over a decade now,” says
Umaar, a father of two.
Abdullah Muhammad, another
member of the Somali community in Pakistan, expresses reservations about the
opportunities available to Somalis in Pakistan. “I do realise that we look
different. However, it’s sometimes saddening to see that our people are
discriminated against due to our appearance.” Abdullah will return to
Somalia in 2013 once he finishes his degree in medicine. He hopes to serve
his country and satiate the demand for doctors in Somalia.
Pakistan isn’t the only
country Somalis have settled into. “The educated and English-speaking
Somalis have gone to countries like the USA and Canada,” says Abdul Qadir
Yousaf, an engineering student at The University of Engineering and
Technology, Lahore. Yousaf lodges in the hostel of the University of Punjab
along with ten other Somali students.
The future of the Somali
community in Pakistan is uncertain. “I don’t know how long I’ll be
allowed to stay in Pakistan once 2012 comes to an end. There is a lot of
speculation regarding the renewal of the Memorandum between the UNHCR and the
Government of Pakistan about the status of refugees,” says Mohammad Abidi.
The Somali population in
Pakistan has already started to shrink. “Their population is expected to be
around 2500 by the end of this year,” says a UNHCR official. While some
Somalis have started packing up, others are exploring options of migrating to
Umar Ali, an official at
the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, was also confused about the
future of Somali refugees in Pakistan. However, he says, “The issue will be
resolved before December.”