The Al-Asif square market is like a little Afghanistan in Karachi, Pakistan.
National foods like kebab, Kabul pilawo, or manto are easy to get… and the latest Pashto and Dari music fills the streets…..
Jan Agha has lived most of his life as a refugee here.
When the rest of Afghans voted in the recent election, despite the never ending threat of terrorism, the Afghan diaspora didn’t get the chance to take part yet.
He doesn’t get a say in who runs Afghanistan.
“We do feel neglected and sad since we were not given the opportunity to vote for the Afghan Presidential elections.”
Like many Afghan refugees, Jan Agha still has a strong connection to hid motherland and wants to be a part of the process of change there… but officials say it was not logistically possible to let the 3 million Afghan refugees vote in the recent election.
“We had the refugees in mind while we were planning for the elections but honestly it was not possible due to some technical and logistical reasons to include them in the election process,” says Shah Ahmad Saed is the Afghan Council General in Karachi.
The traders and laborers of the Al-Asif market live in this refugee camp, a couple of miles away from the market.
Located on the outskirt of Karachi, this barren area was turned into home for the Afghans during the 80s.
“In the beginning, war forced us to run for our lives and become a refugee here, we were poor farmers with very little land,” says Ghulam Rabbani while working inside his bakery. “But now families have grown in size and that old land is not sufficient for us so now poverty is holding us from going back.”
His cousin Gul Deen recently went home for a visit and brought news of the elections.
“We wish for a fair and honest government in Kabul, a government that understands the value and importance of brotherly ties with its neighbors too.”
As a refugee Gul Deen can’t buy a mobile phone or car... and he can’t even enroll his children in state schools.
But he says he doesn’t want to go home because there are no jobs there.
It’s the same as Rabbani, a father of seven, who also chooses to stay in Pakistan.
“New president should ensure developing industries in each and every province of the country so that poor people can work and earn a living otherwise its extremely hard to survive.”
Until this changes… mini Kabul in Karachi will continue to be a thriving market place.