Pakistan church demands humane treatment of Afghans

(UCAN) Afghan refugees stranded in Pakistan need to be treated with respect, dignity and are deserving of basic human rights, a lack of which will only fuel hatred and terrorism, bishops say.

The government announced that Torkham and Chaman crossings will be open for only two days to allow Afghan and Pakistani travelers stranded on both sides to return home.

More than 19,000 people crossed over to Afghanistan on March 7 when Pakistani authorities temporarily reopened the border with Afghanistan after 18 days.

The border was closed after a Feb. 16 suicide attack at a Sufi shrine killed 88 people. Afghanistan-based Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility.

“Pakistan has to prioritize its own security but there are more humane ways to deal with people who deserve their basic rights. They must be facilitated as per our laws,” said Bishop Joseph Arshad, apostolic administrator of Islamabad-Rawalpindi.

Lutheran Bishop Jimmy Mathew of Mardan, said that a sudden change in government policy could result in a backlash.

“We are talking about a whole generation born and raised in a region that was culturally friendly on both sides. Pakistanis could park their vehicles at the border and hire another car in Afghanistan. Some people own properties in both territories. Now it’s a panic. The common man is suffering. This may result in hate, unemployment and terrorism,” he said. [More]