Islamabad: After years of living in Pakistan, thousands of Afghans have gone into hiding. Rights activists say they are trying to escape a government order to expel undocumented foreigners, fearing persecution under the Taliban should they return to their homeland.
“The government of Pakistan, which started the deportation... the process has completely ruined the situation to such an extent that we are currently locked in our homes. We are currently living in a situation where we are inside the house but we cannot turn on the electricity. The gate is locked from the outside. We are locked inside, we can't come out, we can't turn on our lights, we can't even talk loudly.”
Those at the shelter say the lock was put there by local supporters so neighbours believe the house is unoccupied. And that some locals are helping the Afghans arrange for necessities to be smuggled into the shelter under the cover of night.
A woman, who is from the Afghan capital of Kabul, worries she could be prosecuted if she returns.
She converted from Islam to Christianity in 2019. Renunciation of the Islamic faith is a serious offense under the strict Islamic law practiced by the Taliban. Authorities began rounding up migrants across the country after a deadline for voluntary exits expired on November 1.
The expulsion decision came after suicide bombings this year which the government - without providing evidence - said involved Afghans. Islamabad has also blamed them for smuggling and other militant attacks.
Karachi-based human rights activist Sijal Shafiq helped vulnerable Afghans find shelter before Pakistan's new expulsion policy.