The latest anti-encroachment operation came as the latest blow to illegal Afghans living in Pakistan. The operation was carried out in the board bazaar area of Peshawar. The board bazaar, which was established in the 1980s after the arrival of Afghan refugees due to the Soviet-Afghan war, is also known as “mini Kabul”. The name Mini Kabul was given to this bazaar because most of the shopkeepers and vendors in the market are Afghan refugees.
The bazaar wore a deserted look on Monday. The smell of Afghan jalebi and mamtu (dumplings) was gone after the authorities removed hundreds of vendors along with their pushcarts and kiosks. This bazaar is home to around 6,000 shops, where around 700 vendors sell fruit, vegetables, and other goods on pushcarts.
This anti-encroachment drive has affected the livelihoods of many Afghans. A 37-year-old Afghan refugee, Shafi, is among hundreds of other vendors and shopkeepers. He sells vegetables on his pushcart in the Board Bazaar market. This is his only way to earn money. The police, during the operation, threw his cart into a nearby canal.
Shafi was in utter grief and disbelief as his support system had been thrown away. He was the main earner in his family and had no alternative. He fears that the same would happen if he brought another cart and started working.
The residents of that area were not served any notice prior to the anti-encroachment operation. People requested the district administration provide an alternate place for the Afghan refugees who had lost their livelihoods in the drive. The anti-encroachment operation has caused a heavy loss to the Afghans working in Board Bazaar.
Authorities in Peshawar received several complaints regarding permanent and temporary structures installed in Board Bazar. Some of the vendors had occupied empty lots and railway land around the Board Bazaar area. This caused inconvenience to the public and prompted action. The local administration, together with other civic bodies, dismantled and demolished up to 400 illegal structures. Some of them were permanently built, while others were temporary.
The Pakistani government has also tightened its travel policy, which requires Afghan nationals to carry a valid passport and visa to cross the border into Pakistan. Previously, Islamabad had been practicing a relaxed travel policy at some of the crossings for residents living in border towns on either side.