Progress is slow in Afghanistan, but it does exist, thanks to internal and external efforts. Photo: Reuters/Omar Sobhani

Pakistan is conducting the mass repatriation of Afghan refugees through coercion, threats and abuse, Human Rights Watch said in a scathing report on Monday, accusing the UN refugee agency of complicity in promoting the exodus.

Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been forced to return to their homeland, which is racked by conflict, poverty and unemployment, joining more than half a million others uprooted by war inside the country.

The report, entitled “Pakistan Coercion, UN Complicity: The Mass Forced Return of Afghan Refugees,” called the repatriation the world’s largest forced return of refugees.

“After decades of hosting Afghan refugees, Pakistan in mid-2016 unleashed the world’s largest recent anti-refugee crackdowns to coerce their mass return,” said Gerry Simpson, a refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Because the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) didn’t stand up publicly to Pakistan’s bullying and abuses, international donors should step in to press the government and UN to protect the remaining Afghan refugees in Pakistan.”