Kabul :The flow of Afghans forced to leave Iran turned into a flood in 2018, with a record nearly 800,000 coming back as renewed United States sanctions sent the Iranian currency into freefall and fuelled inflation.
The 773,125 voluntary returnees and deportees was 66 per cent more than in 2017 and the trend is expected to continue, said Laurence Hart, the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) chief of mission in Afghanistan.
“The reason why people are coming back is because of the reduced economic opportunities in the region… including Iran,” Hart told AFP.
The 2018 figure was the highest since the IOM began systematically recording the volume of returnees to Afghanistan in 2012.
In contrast, just under 33,000 Afghans came back from Pakistan, where many have lived since fleeing the Soviet invasion of 1979.
Desperate Afghans have been paying smugglers to cross the porous border with Iran for years in search of work to support struggling families.
Smugglers can charge $300-$500 per person, turning it into a multi-million industry.
An estimated 1.5 million to two million “undocumented” Afghans are in Iran, the United Nations’ refugee agency said in September, citing government estimates.
Another one million are registered as refugees.
Many of the families of migrants are farmers who have been suffering through Afghanistan’s worst drought in living memory, compounding the misery caused by 17 years of conflict and underscoring their reliance on the remittances.
“There were no jobs in Afghanistan so I had to go to Iran for work,” said Mohammad Sarwar, 39, who worked as a labourer for four months before he was arrested by Iranian police and deported.
“If I can make some money here, I will never go back to Iran,” he said at the IOM’s busy transit centre in the western Afghan city of Herat, roughly 140 kilometres from the border.
Abdul Hakim, 28, had just found a job in Iran after a month of searching when he was detained and kicked out. He faces an uncertain future as he tries to find a way to support his wife and three young children.
“The situation is very bad in Afghanistan,” said Hakim, who comes from the northwestern province of Badghis, which has been hit hard by the drought.
Some, like 75-year-old Naseruddin, who only gave one name, have returned to Afghanistan penniless.
“I was there for five months but the police caught me,” he said. “I have no money on me.”
Nearly half of the returnees — 358,065 — volunteered to come back to Afghanistan after watching their earnings shrivel up and jobs disappear.
Iran’s rial lost around half its value against the dollar last year after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal.
That move triggered a reimposition of tough sanctions on the Islamic republic, which have exacerbated the country’s economic problems.
Pakistan puts major CPEC power project on hold, asks China to delete it from list
Islamabad: In a setback to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Pakistan government has decided to put on hold a major power project, Rahim Yar Khan power project, and has reportedly informed the Chinese government about the same. According to a report in Pakistan-based Dawn News, the Pakistan government will shut down several other schemes under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).
The report further said that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan-led government has asked Beijing to “formally delete the project from the CPEC list”. The same was communicated to China in a meeting of the CPEC Joint Coordination Committee by Pakistan on December 20, 2018. According to the report, the project was pushed by the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz government in the past.
The development comes months after China refuted charges that Pakistan’s current economic crisis crumbled because of projects under CPEC. China had said that blaming CPEC was uncalled for and that the corridor in fact was something that would bolster Pakistan economy in the years to come.
The defence of CPEC was necessiated after rising voices in Pakistan against it. Several people questioned the loans taken from China and asked the terms for their repayment. Even the United States has said that the current state of Pakistani economy is a result of loans it has taken from Beijing and has made it clear that it won’t allow any bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which would be used by Islamabad to repay Chinese debt.
The IMF also later observed that increasing Chinese involvement in Pakistan’s economy could be disastrous on the latter’s future.
Islamabad has already cut the size of the biggest Chinese “Silk Road” project in Pakistan, a reconstruction of the main rail line between the port city of Karachi and Peshawar in the northwest by $2 billion, citing government concerns about the country’s debt levels. The changes are part of Islamabad’s efforts to rethink key Belt and Road Initiative projects in Pakistan, to which China has pledged about $60bn in financing.
Trump threatens to ‘devastate’ Turkey’s economy if it attacks Kurds
Washington: US President Donald Trump said that America would “devastate Turkey economically” if the NATO-allied country attacks Kurds in the region. “Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining IS (Islamic State) territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions. Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms,” the President tweeted.
“Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds,” but followed up in a second tweet, “Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey.”
Turkey views some Kurdish groups in the region as terrorist organisations and Kurds make up the majority of US-allied fighters operating in Syria in the civil war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad`s regime, CNN reported.
It`s a stark threat toward an ally in the region that has partnered with the US in the fight against the IS. CNN reported on Thursday that the first US military ground equipment has been withdrawn from Syria, according to an administration official with direct knowledge of the operation.
Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly lashed out at US National Security Adviser John Bolton for saying the US withdrawal was contingent upon Ankara`s pledge not to attack US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria once troops leave.
Bill for delisting Pakistan as major ally tabled in US Congress
WASHINGTON: A bill seeking to remove Pakistan from a list of America’s major non-Nato allies has been introduced in the US Congress, even though the Trump administration enhances its contacts with Islamabad in its pursuit of a peaceful end to the Afghan war.
The resolution — introduced by Congressman Andy Biggs who, like the Trump administration, is a Republican — sets new conditions for future re-designation.
If a US president desires to put Pakistan back on the list, he or she will have to certify to Congress that Pakistan continues to conduct military operations that are contributing to significantly disrupting the “safe haven and freedom of movement” of the Haqqani Network in the country.
The president also has to certify that Pakistan has shown progress in arresting and prosecuting Haqqani Network’s senior leaders and mid-level operatives.
Take a look: Pakistan has given us nothing but lies and deceit, says US President Donald Trump
The re-designation will require another certification from Congress that Pakistan has taken steps to demonstrate its commitment to preventing the Haqqani Network from using any Pakistani territory as a safe haven and that Pakistan actively cooperates with Afghanistan to restrict the movement of militants along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Known as Resolution H.R. 73, the bill has been sent to the House Foreign Affairs Committee for necessary action.
Mr Biggs, a second-term legislator, has no cosponsor and his move will need a strong support from the Trump administration and the Democratic Party to pass a House dominated by the Democrats.
In recent statements, President Donald Trump has clearly expressed his desire to withdraw at least half of the 14,000 US troops still stationed in Afghanistan.
Senior Democrats — both in and outside Congress — have also said that the United States cannot remain involved in these apparently unending wars in Afghanistan and Syria.
But before an ultimate withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Trump administration wants to ensure that the pullout does not lead to the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government in Kabul.