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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Some Pakistanis Feel Refugees Hinder Business in Quetta

Aired November 3, 2001 - 08:25   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Pakistan has what can be called a love-hate relationship with Afghan refugees. One minute it promises to allow Afghan women and children into the country and the next it closes the border.

It's especially apparent in Quetta, where CNN's Carol Lin reports some Pakistanis feel refugees are infringing on their ability just to make a living.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Pakistani man and Afghan cyclist collide in a Quetta neighborhood, where resentment is simmering just beneath the surface. This is Pashtunabad, a once barren piece of land that Afghan refugees turned into a lush marketplace, where impoverished Afghans have literally gone from rags to riches.

This place was a desert. The refugees built this province, says cosmetic salesman Mohammed Munir (ph).

While half of all Pakistanis are unemployed, life is good for these Afghan refugees.

(on camera): And some Afghans are doing so well they're moving into neighborhoods like this one, where homes cost up to six million rupees, about 100,000 U.S. dollars, a price many Pakistanis can never dream to afford.

(voice-over): We have a very good life in Pakistan, says Mohammed Hasheem (ph), who went from being a poor farmer in Afghanistan to a middle class shopkeeper selling rugs and fabric. He is one of thousands of refugees in this neighborhood who fled the communists, Soviets and more recently, drought, famine and bombs.

At first, Pakistan welcomed their Pashtun tribal brothers. International aid agencies pumped $1.2 billion into Pakistan's economy, building refugee camps meant to be temporary. But an estimated four million Afghan refugees never went home.

Today, they are the typical immigrant story -- blamed by locals for society's problems. In Pakistan, it's Islamic fundamentalist, terrorism and drug trafficking. In Pashtunabad, Pakistani grocer Laul Muhammad (ph) blames the Afghans for driving prices down. We used to make 1,000 rupees a day. Now it's only 600, he complains. Muhammad claims the Afghans undercut him by selling cheaper, but inferior goods. He says the Afghans should not come here. They are our Muslim brothers, but they should live in their own country, he says. And that is how Pakistan's government is now reacting.

The U.N.'s high commissioner for refugees pleaded with Pakistan's president to accept more refugees. But the Chaman border crossing remains closed to even the most destitute.

(on camera): Is the clock running down on this situation?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's running down for people who need help. It's running down for people whose lives are in danger, yes.

LIN (voice-over): Janet Limm (ph) has studied refugee problems around the world for 20 years and she confirms that normally countries like the United States would pressure Pakistan to take refugees. But not now, while Washington needs Pakistan's support for the war against the Taliban.

Even as the bombs are falling, Pakistan is telling the refugees to stay home.

Carol Lin, CNN, Quetta, Pakistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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