Thursday February 22, 2024

Policy for repatriation of Afghan refugees gets tougher

June 27, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has decided to introduce ‘tougher policy’ for Afghan refugees days before the deadline (June 30) for repatriation of over three million refugees living here since 80s.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with consultation of Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif will finalise terms of new policy next month a road map for the institutions concerned to send Afghan refugees back to their homeland at all cost.

“We’ve decided to review our national policy 2016-17 for Afghan refugees. New tougher policy is ahead with new border management laws,” said Minister for States and Frontier Regions (Safron) Lt Gen (R) Abdul Qadir Baloch.

“On arrival of PM Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan, we will give finishing touch to this new policy, he revealed in an exclusive chat with The News and Geo News (ASKKS Programme). But we want to send them back with respect,” he added.

In marathon meetings held at Ministry of Safron this month, all stakeholders agreed upon to review the existing policy amid prevailing situation approached after killing of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mansour and spiking tensions at Torkham checkpoint this month.

“Several issues, recent Torkham border dispute and Mullah Mansour’s killing in particular, forced Pakistan to review its policy for Afghan refugees—that is why we are coming up with new plan,” General Qadir said.

Refugees are being managed under the Solution Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) and of Pakistan Afghan Refugees Policy 2013 in the country, Safron Ministry officials said. Registered Afghans were issued Proof of Registration Cards (PoRCs) by NADRA for identity purposes only with validity till 31st Dec, 2015 and there is a strong possibility that they will get six month extension again (by Dec 31, 2016), they maintained.

In its first drafted policy, we have prepared two years plans for repatriation, extending validity of PoR Cards and tripartite commission agreement, Safron ministry officials further revealed that but it has been eight months from now but federal cabinet did not take it up. Now the draft is being reviewed where sustainable reintegration in Afghanistan and assistance to host communities and refugee affected areas is being to this policy, they said. The government will form a temporary management of Afghans in Pakistan with joint resource mobilisation to support and political and diplomatic strategy, they added.

The UNHCR representatives also met Pakistani president and other senior cabinet members to resolve this issue amicably. Officials at Ministry of Interior said no decision has yet been made on the extension of the validity of PoR cards.

Ministry of Safron requested Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar for meeting UNHCR representatives last week in Islamabad but he did not meet them. Interior Ministry did not tell the reason, despite several attempts made by The News to ask why he refused to meet them. “Afghan government is also being consulted through Foreign Office to set up a resettlement programme for refugees by engaging UNHCR,” said a senior official of this ministry who is working on repatriation plan.

Government of Pakistan has proposed an extension in the stay of registered Afghan refugees until 31st December 2017 in its draft National Policy on Voluntary Repatriation and Management of Afghan Nationals beyond 2015. This extension has been made to ensure that Afghan refugees have continued legal protection, until the Cabinet makes a decision on the future management policy of Afghans,” said a representative of UNHCR in Islamabad. Refugees are requested to remain patient until there is further instruction or policy decision by the Government,” read official response of UNHCR sent to Geo News and The News.

Professor Nasreen Ghufran, who teaches International Relations at University of Peshawar, said the protracted Afghan refugee problem needs rational and sustainable solution. It cannot be resolved through push factor as Pakistan lacks capability to do even if it so desires. The Afghans are currently facing a similar problem after the APS incident and now killing of Mullah Mansoor now created a similar dilemma for Afghans and Pakistan. The latter is increasingly seeing Afghans as a security threat and want them to return home, she said.

Refugees know their fate but they expect a benign and flexible policy from Pakistan as they are still not ready to return. Refugees are one of the many problems between Pakistan and Afghanistan and both know that they can be effectively used as bargaining chips, she observed.