Espionage suspicions surround Pakistani beggars in Balkh
MAZAR-I-SHARIF (Pajhwok): Some civil society activists and public representatives suspect Pakistani beggars in areas on the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif -- the capital of northern Balkh province -- of involvement in spying for the neighbouring country.
Harbouring similar doubts, the provincial council has asked security officials to adopt serious measures against the Pakistanis, who roam about Alokozai and Mohib Squares, as well as Dasht-i-Shoor, Karta-i-Bakhdi, Balkh University and other neighbourhoods.
A number of these dubious Pakistani citizens, hailing from Kashmir, Karachi and different Punjab cities, claim poverty has brought them to Balkh. Others hold prescriptions from doctors, seeking alms for the purchase of medicine.
Social worker Ahmad Javed told Pajhwok Afghan News he recently saw two Pakistanis begging in front of a mosque in Mohib Square area after evening prayers. Residents gave the couple, having a child, alms. After quizzing the couple, Javed came to know they belonged to the Pakistani port city of Karachi.
“They had a black complexion and were apparently off-colour. Drive by suspicion, I got close to them. They showed me a doctor’s prescription, saying they were in the city to seek alms for the patient’s medical treatment,” he said, believing they are involved in spying.
Balkh University student Syed Alam says Pakistani drifters could be seen daily around the university. “Two of them on a bicycle, with one holding a child in his lap, were asking people for cash even today,” he adds. The hobos could speak or understand Pashto Dari -- the main languages spoken in Afghanistan.
This Pajhwok reporter also encountered a Pakistani couple in Karta-i-Bakhdi locality. They had green passports, having apparently come to Afghanistan in quest of jobs. With a prescription in his hand, one of them said he had a patient, but had no cash and hence his resort to seeking charity.
Najibullah Paikan, leader of the Balkh-based People’s Society, claims the Punjabi families seen in Mazar-i-Sharif are not much different from the Pakistanis fighting in other northern provinces. “Beyond an iota of doubt, these families, involved in ongoing fighting, have been sent to Mazar for spying.”
Paikan underlined the need for establishing the true identity of these individuals, given the Pakistani intelligence services’ complicity in the Afghanistan conflict. Their presence in the northern city, keeping in view the facilities available here, makes little sense, he thought.
The suspects cite jobs and medical treatment as the main reasons for their arrival in Balkh, according to Paikan, who argued that such opportunities were available at a much larger scale in Pakistan. Many Afghans are living as refugees in the neighbouring country for similar reasons.
Balkh Provincial Council member Dr. Mohammad Afzal Hadeed also called the presence of Pakistanis a cause for grave concern. He saw no justification for these individuals coming to Afghanistan, an impoverished country with a war-battered economy, to overcome their financial woes.
He noted the presence of technical and non-technical Pakistani workers on big development projects in different parts of the country. They may have been hired by contracting firms, but Pakistani vagrants begging on the streets raise disturbing security-related questions.
The public representative thanked Pajhwok for raising the issue, which has grave security implications for the city. He promised holding a special meeting with intelligence and police bosses to address the problem with a sense of urgency.
But the deputy police chief of Balkh, Col. Abdur Razzaq, said the residents had not yet lodged a formal complaint regarding the Pakistani beggars. However, he stressed the need for collecting accurate information about the suspected Pakistani citizens in the province.
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