ISLAMABAD: Confusion prevails around the status of over three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan in the absence of a government policy on the extension of their stay in the country.
Talking to The Express Tribune after a meeting of a Senate Standing Committee, Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions (Safron) Lt General (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch on Friday said it is a wrong impression that Pakistan has extended the duration of the Afghan refugees’ stay in Pakistan.
“This policy matter will be brought before the federal cabinet for discussion. The policy of extension is linked with the cabinet’s approval and as per our conceived plan, we will ensure full repatriation of these refugees during the next two years,” he added.
Read: The impact of Afghan refugees
In 2012, the federal cabinet extended the stay of Afghan refugees for three more years. This extension is going to expire on December 31, 2015. To discuss the issue, the Safron minister recently visited Kabul where the Afghan authorities requested Pakistan for a further extension in Afghan refugees’ stay.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation media adviser Hafiz Ahmad Miakhil told The Express Tribune that in a recent meeting with Safron officials, in which representatives of UNCHR were also present, it was agreed that keeping in view the difficult circumstances in Afghanistan, Islamabad will give two-year extension in the stay of about 3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
“It was also decided that the Pakistan government will start the process of registration for 1.2 million unregistered refugees,” he said, adding that the government has also agreed to re-issue 1.6 million cards that were expired in 2015.
Read: Tripartite meeting: Kabul seeks 2 more years for Afghan refugees in Pakistan
As per Afghan authorities, a delegation of 100 Afghan representatives will visit Pakistan to work closely as observer with National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) to oversee the registration process.
According to an official of interior ministry, around 20 centres have been established on different locations for the registration of Afghan refugees and the government will make a formal announcement in this regard soon. Baloch, however, said NADRA has not been authorised for such operation. “No one can issue any card for further extension without the federal government’s permission,” he added.
Issue of TDPs
A top official in Safron ministry said Pakistan is already facing issue of settlement of temporarily displaced persons (TDPs) who had to leave their homes due to military operations in the tribal areas.
He said there is also dispute on Afghan authorities’ claims that around 0.2 million Pakistanis have also migrated to Afghanistan particularly after start of military operation, Zarb-e-Azb.
Read: Coming home to war: Afghan refugees return reluctantly from Pakistan
“The new policy on refugees, which will be announced after federal cabinet’s approval, will also incorporate the issue of Pakistani citizens, who have migrated to Afghanistan,” the official said.
The Senate Standing Committee on SAFRON on Friday discussed the plight of TDPs particularly issues of funds distribution among them.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2015.