PAKISTAN: Afghan Christian convert faces fatal deportation from Pakistan

On the road in Kabul (© Bodow, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)
On the road in Kabul (© Bodow, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

IMMINENT deportation from Pakistan back to Taliban-occupied Afghanistan awaits an Afghan Christian convert – a move that would result in near-certain death, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has learnt.

Bashir, an Afghan Christian living in Pakistan, is fleeing from the Taliban who killed his father, brother and uncle, who worked for the military.

He is due to be deported this month (end of December 2022) back to Afghanistan and likely execution – given his personal background.

Two months ago he suffered a knife attack on his life. Following the attack, he told ACN that he was terrified.

He said: “Pakistan is not a safe country for converted Christians…”

Bashir, who was recently denied a Pakistan visa extension and whose visa expired eight months ago, has been informed by the Pakistani Government that after December 31st 2022, “action will be initiated against overstaying foreigners who are staying more than a year. Moreover, they will be blacklisted for further entry into Pakistan”. The Pakistan Government (Ministry of Interior) website states: “A three-year [prison] sentence can be given to overstaying foreigners.”

Bashir is panic-stricken about the possibility of being discovered in Pakistan illegally, given both the fate of his family under the Taliban back in Afghanistan and his Christian convert status.

Lacking money for food and rent, he has survived since arriving in Pakistan in December 2021 by begging for his basic needs.

He is desperate to share his story with the West, representing just one of millions of struggling Christians living in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Despite formally converting to Christianity in 2017, he was a believer since his childhood, known only to his mother. She respected his freedom, but was worried for his future and security.

His father, brother and uncle worked for the Afghan Army, and were all killed by the Taliban for resisting them, their family home captured. His mother, a Muslim who remains in Afghanistan, urged him to escape, as his Christianity makes him a particular target for the Taliban.

Bashir, interviewed at Kabul Airport in 2021 by inews, escaped from Afghanistan into Pakistan when the Taliban took control of the country last year.

Afghanistan has since been named by religious observers as the most dangerous country in the world to be a Christian – more perilous than North Korea and Saudi Arabia.

This finding was reflected in Aid to the Church in Need’s recent Persecuted and Forgotten? report, which showed that Pakistan is experiencing “a cycle of growing concern for Christians in the region” and that Christians who remain in Afghanistan “live in fear of arrest, torture and execution”.

Over 99.9 percent of Afghanistan’s 38 million citizens are Muslim, with just a few thousand Christians estimated to be in the country. In Pakistan, Christians form 2 percent (more than 4 million) of the country’s 208.4 million people.

Despite this and the fact that thousands of economic migrants enter Britain each year, the UK Government has done little to help Christians in a similar situation to Bashir.

ACN is calling on the UK Government to address Bashir’s situation and consider offering him asylum, or at least helping him extend his Pakistan visa or leave the country safely.