The first dawn appeared on the Kachi Abadi houses on Sunday, when people were sitting in front of their houses to enjoy the sun. Children began playing traditional games while the ages old residents sat with their counter-parts discussing various things. Among the 300 Afghan refugee families in the Kachi Abadi of Islamabad, one family consisting of 60-year-old Azizullah Khan, who is a daily wager in the vegetable market of Islamabad, migrated to Pakistan after the USSR intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980s. On one side, Azizullah Khan is depressed about the Pakistan stance on the repatriation of Afghan refugees as soon as possible while on the other side still has memories of USSR intervention in Afghanistan and the violence they faced in response of supporting Gulbuudin Hikmatyar of the Hizb-e-Islami inside Afghanistan. Azizullah informed it was the time when USSR army stepped in Afghanistan and the whole village in Laghman province was in fear that soon the army will come to their village and will kill the villagers. The cloud of fear was moving in on the people of Afghanistan. “It was Friday. We were sitting in the local mosque. A group shared the picture of Maulvi Younas Khalis while the other believers shared the picture on the second wall of the mosque of Gulbuddin Hikmatyar and was discussing the ideologue of both factions. Suddenly someone rushed to the mosque with disturbed everyone and informed them that the army vehicle had cordoned off the village. Maulana Ilyas removed the banners from the wall and threw them in a well and left the mosque to reach home. But suddenly the army opened fire on them and he died on the spot along with 30 other people, including my grandmother,” Azizullah said. Hikmatyar and Maulvi Younas Khalis were the passengers of the same Hizb-e-Islami but in 1979 due to an internal conflict, Maulvi Younas split from Hikmatyar and established his own faction known as Khalis faction. Most of the people in Afghanistan were divided on this splinter and both of the group believers were running campaigns for their faction in the streets of Afghanistan. Azizullah was part of the Hikmatyar group and campaigning was on peak in those days when the army reached the village. He added that after the army killed the supporters of both the factions, we hid in the far mountains to safeguard our lives. “When the finally left the village, we came back and started digging graves for the deceased, with our womenfolk also helping us. We had to be quick as the army could come back anytime. Before the morning prayers, we completed the burial and ran towards the mountains but on that day, the army did not come. We decided to leave the village for Pakistan and began our journey through mules and some by donkeys through the Tora Bora Mountains. After many days, we reached Peshawar and later shifted to Islamabad’s Kachi Abadi. There were more chances of livelihood here to support our families. Most of our friends had died on the way,” Azizullah said. According to a UNCHR global appeal report of 2018-19, the repatriation trend has decreased of Afghan refugees since 2016. In 2016, 370,000 refugees repatriated from Pakistan while in 2017, the numbers reduced to 50,000. Among those, not in favour of leaving Pakistan, is Abdul Ghaffar Khan who is a student of grade 7 in a local school of the Kachi Abadi and wants to become a doctor as most of the doctors in the camp are not professional and people are suffering from various diseases. Abdul Ghaffar Khan is not willing to return to Afghanistan as the war is on its peak and he wants to enjoy life here. “I was born in Islamabad. I have good friends and teachers here with whom I am connected. There is peace here and I want to study to secure a good future. Why should I move to a country where death is waiting for me in any suicide blast? If the government forced me to leave, it will be injustice because there is no peace in Afghanistan and I don’t understand why they are pushing us to settle there,” Abdul Ghaffar said. The health and education services are poor in the Kachi Abadi where Afghans are living and they don’t travel for treatment to the city as they all fear that they will either be arrested or harassed. Many women living there die during labour. Many children also leave their studies as the condition of the school inside the camp is extremely poor. On entering the Kachi Abadi, any regular person can analyse the conditions in which these people are living. Noor Kamal Khan is a milkman. He wants peace like everyone around him does. He is the father of 20 children and has two wives. He was asked why had so many children when the living conditions were extremely tough. He replied that millions had died because of the ongoing war in Afghanistan. He wanted to send some of his boys in the army to serve and protect his home country of Afghanistan. During a federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in the first week of January, an extension of 30 days was granted to the Afghan refugees living in Pakistan as 1.4 million registered Afghans had lost their refugee status owing to their registration cards getting expired on December 31, 2017. It was also discussed how Pakistan was facing the burden of the Afghan refugees on their economy and it was not fruitful for the country’s economy to sustain any more burden. The SAFRON ministry suggested extending the stay of these Afghan refugees to December 2018 but the cabinet only approved a 30 days’ extension. Muhammad Khan is amongst those born in the volatile region of Balkh where he witnessed a blood bath during the USSR tenure. Life for him was always a perpetual nightmare of violence and criminality in Afghanistan. “When USSR collapsed, we left Pakistan on hopes that now we will be secure there as our Muslim brothers are back in power, but I can’t forget that violence when Muslims were slaughtering Muslims and both factions were claiming that we are the real believers of the religion. In that blood bath of humans that were all Muslims, we migrated once again to Pakistan with hopes that one day peace will be restored in Afghanistan but the hope is now lost,” Muhammad Khan said. The Capital Development Authority along with the Islamabad police demolished the Kachi Abadi in which most of the Afghans were evicted and later they established them again in the G-11 area of Islamabad as most of the Afghans sold their basics to build their houses again. Nasrullah is amongst those who witnessed his house being demolished a few years ago. He has a stall of vegetables in a local market of Rawalpindi but complains about both the countries not accommodating refugees. Nasrullah informed that on a daily basis, they face harassment from police. In the end, they have no choice but to give them money to get rid of them. “Neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan are interested to know about our living conditions. They don’t care about how we are spending out lives here in this Kachi Abadi where no arrangement of clean water, basic health and education facilities is there,” Nasrullah said. Most of the elderly people living in the Kachi Abadi share the desire to be buried in their homeland, not here in Pakistan. Published in Daily Times, February 14th 2018.