Authors Name: 
Helen Wai-sze Leung
University of Hong Kong
Politics & International Relations
Highly commended

Voices of Afghan refugees in Pakistan: Tracing the long-term impact of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1978-1992

War has arguably existed since the dawn of humanity, while the immediate effects of war, including casualties and deaths, the destruction of infrastructure, and the overthrowing of a government or civilization in replacement of a new, are commonly mapped. Yet, the long term and often unintended effects of war on individuals are largely overlooked. Therefore, this paper aims to map the long-term impact of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979-1992 by tracing the lives of the Afghan refugees in Pakistan today as a result of the war. Utilizing a range of ethnographic data, code analysis is adopted to capture the voices and sentiments of the Afghan refugee population. As some Afghan refugees are involuntarily displaced from their place of origin for extended periods of time, this paper argues that there are varied effects between the first and second generation of Afghan refugees in regards to their views and attachment towards Afghanistan. While Afghanistan embodies memories of war and bloodshed in the eyes of the first generation refugees, the second generation of refugees who grew up in Pakistan expresses a more positive sense of belonging towards Afghanistan. The second generation further expresses varying degrees in adopting a Pakistani identity and varying degrees of desire to return to Afghanistan. As time from the war increases, the paper further argues that Afghan refugees face increasing hostility by the Pakistanis due to the fading sense of war sympathy. This altogether pose a complex dilemma in which the refugees’ identity are placed within a realm of “in-between” where they are associated with both, or neither, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This results in a lack of rootedness that further challenges the concepts of national boundaries and citizenship, which altogether suggests the far-reaching and ever-evolving impacts of war on individual lives decades beyond the war.