PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Wednesday directed the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments to repatriate 1.7 million registered Afghan refugees forthwith as Pakistan wasn’t in a position to keep them in view of the energy, water and food crises.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth directed the secretary States and Frontier Regions (Safron) and chief commissioner Afghan Refugees to appear along with complete record about foreign aid to the refugees in cash and in kind with spending details. The PHC directives came at the United Nations (UN) World Refugee Day, which was observed across the world including Pakistan to honour the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children forced to flee their homeland under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.
The chief justice observed that the UN charter on refugees did not compel a state to shelter refugees for a period longer than 30 years. He remarked that normalcy had almost been restored in Afghanistan and 70 percent Afghans were living there. Besides, he said there was an elected government and foolproof security was being provided to the citizens by the US-led Nato forces.
“The 1.7 million Afghan refugees have become a huge burden on the local population as Pakistan is facing several crises, including electricity, food and law and order,” the chief justice observed.
The PHC chief justice had taken suo motu notice in the writ petition of Javed Shah, an employee of the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees that he filed after being ignored in the promotion process. The petitioner’s lawyer Abdul Lateef Afridi also showed concern over the stay of 1.7 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and mostly living in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The bench doubted that the federal and provincial governments were playing a role in promoting the repatriation of the Afghan refugees as the UN and other foreign agencies were funding them in dollars.
The registered 1.7 million Afghan refugees are scattered over 80 camps. There are at least another million undocumented Afghans. The Afghan refugees are scheduled to lose their legal residency at the end of the year, but many are not ready to return.