Islamabad: Afghan refugees have taken over a children’s park in Islamabad and are living there after erecting tents due to the negligence of officials.
The recently refurbished children’s park at F-6 has become a makeshift encampment for Afghan refugees, especially from the Hazara community, who fled their homeland following the Taliban’s capture of Kabul.
The refugees initially tented outside the National Press Club before moving to the red zone near Parliament House. Then, finally, the police and administration could get them out of the high-security zone.
The refugees then set up camp outside the press club once more. On the other hand, those from the Hazara community set up camp across the street at the children’s park. For the past few weeks, nearly 700 Afghan refugees, primarily women, and children have taken refuge in the park.
Protesters claim they are helpless and unable to return to their homes; CDA will seek local administration and police assistance to get the area cleared.
“We’re living in a public park but powerless and homeless, and we have no idea where to go.” Surya Mosawai, a university graduate from Herat, agreed.
She stated that the refugees were experiencing numerous challenges, but no one, including wealthy countries and other human rights advocates, was paying attention to their plight.
“Do you think we choose to live in this park?” Unfortunately, no. We don’t want to live here, but we don’t have any other choice. “We have been pleading with the world community and developed countries, especially the United States of America, to grant us citizenship because we are unable to return to our country due to the Taliban,” she said.
Bakar Ahmed, another refugee, stated, “The United Nations High Commission for Refugees should assist us.”
He stated that if developed countries were unwilling to accept them, Pakistan should provide them with sanctuary.
It should be emphasized that Pakistan has sheltered over 1.3 million Afghan refugees for decades.
Another refugee, Najma Nowrozi, said the camp life was difficult since refugees had to go to local mosques to use the restroom.
“We, too, are facing a water crisis,” she claimed that some wealthy locals had donated two plastic tanks for water storage. “It is a godsend for us, but there is not enough water,” she remarked, adding, “We are helpless and hopeless.”
Some migrants claimed a public toilet near their encampment but had to pay the bathroom operator to use it. Similarly, they claimed they had to pay merchants to charge their cellphones.
The Capital Development Authority (CDA) recently repaired and restored the park with millions of rupees. However, due to the civic agency’s incompetence, the refugees have seized control.
“We are not against refugees; they are our brothers and sisters.” However, we oppose the establishment of camps in public parks. Local Liaquat Khan suggested that the CDA and police remove them from the park. Shabbir Ali, another resident, stated that unmanaged camps posed a security risk to the community. In addition, he questioned the efficiency of the CDA, which is in charge of the public parks.
“These camps should be relocated since residents have been denied the right to visit the park because refugees have taken it over,” he said.
When reached, CDA Director General Environment Irfan Niazi told Dawn that he would take the matter up with the capital administration and police to have the park demolished.
He acknowledged that the park had recently been refurbished and would soon be closed to the public.