‘I’m starting again from zero’: Afghans pour out of a hostile Pakistan

Afghans returning from Pakistan wait for processing by authorities at the Torkham border crossing in eastern Afghanistan, Oct. 23, 2023. More than 70,000 undocumented Afghans have returned to their home country in recent weeks to meet a Nov. 1, 2023, deadline ordered by the Pakistani government. [Elise Blanchard/The New York Times]

TORKHAM, Afghanistan - The grandfather always feared this day would come.

In the four decades since he fled Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion, the man, Najmuddin Torjan, had been living illegally in Pakistan. He married there, had children and watched as they had children of their own. All the while, he felt the unease of making a life on borrowed land, seemingly on borrowed time.

This month, that time ran out. The Pakistani government abruptly declared that all foreign citizens living in the country without documents must leave by Nov. 1. Fearing arrest or prison, his family packed up everything: their clothes, their pots, their pans. The wooden beams from their ceiling. Their metal window frames and rusted doors.

After dismantling the place they had called home for three generations, they boarded a truck and joined a flood of Afghan...

Continue reading on: