Repercussions of the War in Afghanistan
The presence of large numbers Afghan refugees has had a weighty
impact on the demographics of Pakistan. After the Soviet Union
invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, refugees began streaming
over the borders into Pakistan. By 1990 approximately 3.2 million
refugees had settled there, a decrease of about 90,000 from 1989.
Previously uninhabited areas of the North-West Frontier Province
and Balochistan had been settled by refugees during the 1980s.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated
that in 1990 there were 345 Afghan refugee villages. Of these,
68.5 percent were in the North-West Frontier Province, 26.0 percent
in Balochistan, and 5.5 percent in Punjab. Each village housed
an average of 10,000 people, and women and children accounted
for 75 percent of the refugee population.
The influx of refugees has had profound social consequences,
and the population of desert areas has also had an effect on the
environment. Initially, Pakistanis wanted to help their neighbors
in a time of need, but difficulties slowly led many to think that
their friendship had gone far enough. Among the problems were
inflation, a dearth of low-paying jobs because these were taken
by refugees, and a proliferation of weapons, especially in urban
areas. The escalation of animosity between refugees and Pakistanis,
particularly in Punjab, caused the government to restrict the
refugees' free movement in the country in the mid1980s .
To assist Pakistan in preventing conflict by keeping the refugees
separate from the local population, the UNHCR placed restrictions
on disbursements of food and other goods in its refugee camps
in the North-West Frontier Province and in Balochistan. Since
the 1989 end of the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, the UNHCR,
the Pakistan government, and an array of NGOs have encouraged
the refugees to return home, but until internecine fighting in
Afghanistan stops, many will elect to remain in Pakistan. In early
1994, the number of Afghan refugees still residing in Pakistan
was estimated at 1.4 million, according to Amnesty International.
More than 2 million Afghan refugees also remained in Iran.
Data as of April 1994