Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Three-year-old Gul Bibi Shamra, an Afghan refugee, takes a break from playing with other children to pose for a picture in a slum on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Afghan refugee Robina Haseeb, 5, poses in the Islamabad slum.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Afghan refugee Gullakhta Nawab is 6.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Afghan refugee Khalzarin Zirgul, 6, holds her cousin Zaman, 3 months.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Afghan refugee girl Madina Jumaa, 4, takes a break from playing to pose for a picture in a slum on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Afghan refugee Hazrat Babir, 7, takes a break from his playtime to pose for a picture.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Afghan refugee Hayat Khan is 8.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Afghan refugee Naseebah Zarghoul is 6.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Afghan refugee Akhtar Babrek is 13.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Afghan refugee laiba Hazrat is 6.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Nazmina Bibi is 7.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Awal Gul is 12.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Afghan refugee girl Safia Mourad is 4.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Zarlakhta Nawab is 6.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Waheed Wazir is 6.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Afghan refugee girl Basmina, 3, poses for a picture in Islamabad, Pakistan.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Afghan refugee Allam Ahmad, 6, takes a break from his playtime to pose for a picture in a slum on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Afghan refugee Shahzada Saleem, 15, holds his nephew Satara, 2 months, in a slum on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Afghan refugee Abdulrahman Bahadir is 13.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Ibraheem Rahees is 8.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Afghan refugee Noorkhan Zahir is 6.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

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Photo essay | Afghan refugee children in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — For more than three decades, Pakistan has been home to one of the world’s largest refugee communities: hundreds of thousands of Afghans who have fled the repeated wars and fighting in their country.

Since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, about 3.8 million have returned home, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency. But nearly 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan, with roughly another million living here illegally.

Whole generations of Afghan children have been born and raised in Pakistan, often living in poverty and uncertainty. Awal Gul, 12, lives in a slum on the outskirts of the capital, Islamabad. He’s never gone to school and instead works as a day laborer at a nearby vegetable market. He dreams of becoming a famous cricket player and representing his homeland.

“My land is in Afghanistan, and we have nothing in Pakistan,” he said.

The Afghan population in Pakistan is the legacy of Afghanistan’s repeated conflicts. Millions streamed across the border after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the start of a decade-long war against the occupation. After the Soviets pulled out, the country was torn apart by fighting between warlords, and more Afghans fled. When the Taliban rose to power in 1996, its strict form of Sunni Islam further terrorized the population.

Most of the refugees can’t fathom returning to Afghanistan. They may feel like outsiders in Pakistan, but they say their homeland is still too violent and desperately poor.

But many Pakistanis are growing frustrated with the toll they say the refugee population is taking on their country, and pressure is mounting on the government to send them back. The Afghans are perceived as bringing crime and terrorism to Pakistan and have a hard time finding jobs or sending their children to school.

– Associated Press

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