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Migrant Crisis

Afghan musicians caught in wave of repatriation

Thursday, October 27, 2016 - 01:49

Afghan musicians are packing up with heavy hearts after Pakistan asks all Afghan refugees to leave the country by the end of the year. Julie Noce reports.

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Forty year old Zaabit Khan, an Afghan national, dusts off his harmonium and begins to sing in his tiny office in Peshawar, Pakistan. Although he grew up here, soon he and every other Afghani living in Pakistan will be forced to leave under new strictly enforced repatriation laws. (SOUNDBITE) (Pashto) AFGHAN MUSICIAN BORN IN PAKISTAN, ZAABIT KHAN, SAYING: "I was born and brought up here. We fled from there because of the fighting. Now our circumstances have improved here; my children are going to school. But the government is not allowing us to stay here anymore; they are sending us back to our country." Afghanistan's rich musical history has permeated Pakistani culture in past four decades when some 2.5 million Afghan refugees fled their war-torn homeland. During the 80s and 90's instrumental music and public musical performances were banned in Afghanistan. Musicians were arrested, and their instruments were destroyed prompting many to settle in Pakistan. Over the years, Afghan musicians have gained widespread fame for the lively performances with Afghan singers a common sight at wedding ceremonies. But as the country's December 31st deadline for Afghan repatriation nears, the musicians face an uncertain future. We're not going to start playing drums and harmoniums the minute we get there, this drummer said. First we have to get our lives in order. Initially our situation will be dismal. According to U.N. estimates, more than half a million Afghans are returning home from Pakistan and Iran this year straining the the government and aid agencies to provide help as winter approaches.

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Afghan musicians caught in wave of repatriation

Thursday, October 27, 2016 - 01:49