Since the late 1970s, when the Soviet Union invaded, millions of Afghans have fled because of war. New generations of Afghans were born and married abroad, mainly in neighboring Pakistan and Iran, having never known their ancestral homeland.
In Pakistan, they lived in poor but industrious refugee settlements. Men held down manual-labor jobs, and most Afghans had homes, however spartan. Pakistan played host for decades. Although it still maintains dozens of camps, Pakistan closed two large camps in North-West Frontier Province near the Afghan border during the past 18 months, saying they had become sanctuaries for militant groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
The nation’s largest camp, Jalozai, was closed in May, forcing 110,000 Afghans to choose between two bleak options: relocate within Pakistan or return home.
With Pakistan suffering from a food and fuel crisis, and with rent prices soaring in nearby cities like Peshawar, the answer was easy enough for 70 percent of them.
Nazar, the boy with polio, watched as bulldozers razed his school and house. Then, with $100 stipends given to his and the other families by the United Nations refugee office, Nazar and his relatives boarded a truck and three days later found themselves at this makeshift settlement.
“The Pakistan government forced us to leave,” said Mr. Wahab, the village elder.
And the Afghan government “has been stringing us along” with failed promises, he said.
In April, I saw an Al-Jazeera report on the impending destruction of the Jalozai camp (it was actually more of a permanent settlement) by the Pakistani government: