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February 18, 2020

‘Pakistan’s protection of refugees in line with Surah Taubah’

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February 18, 2020

ISLAMABAD: United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres Monday said during most of his period as a commissioner, Pakistan was the number one refugee-hosting country on the earth.

“For more than three out of every four years since 1979, either Pakistan or Iran have been ranked world’s top refugee-hosting countries and there were though major conflicts unfortunately erupting in other parts of the world paving way for soaring of the refugee population. Pakistan today is the world’s second largest refugee-hosting country,” he said while addressing the event titled ‘40 years of Afghan Refugees Presence in Pakistan: A New Partnership for Solidarity’ here.

He said on his every visit here, he had been struck by the extraordinary resilience, exceptional generosity and overwhelming compassion.

“I saw solidarity not just in words but in deeds. The generous spirit is fully in line with what I regard as the most beautiful prescription for refugee protection in world history found in Surah Al-Taubah of the holy Quran,and I quote, “And if anyone (of the polytheists) seeks your protection then grant him protection so that he may hear the words of Allah. Then escort him where he feels secure.”

He said such protection was accorded to believers and non-believers alike in a remarkable example of tolerance many centuries before the 1951 refugee convention, which defined a concept for refugees and the protection they deserve.

The UN chief said he saw that compassion played out in real time here in Pakistan. He said the United Nations had seen many innovative policies that took root here including biometric registration, access to the national education system, healthcare and inclusion in the economy.

“Despite Pakistan’s all challenges, these initiatives have made big difference. Indeed, many have been recognized as global marvel of good practice,” he said.

The UN chief asked the global community to step up help for Pakistan in facilitating the refugees. He urged the world powers to pursue way for peace in Afghanistan. “The UN believes in dignified repatriation of refugees, he maintained.

Meanwhile, speaking at a joint press conference along with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi after they participated in the Refugee Conference, Antonio Guterres said the United Nations was ready to participate in the Afghan reconciliation process along with other stakeholders for durable peace and stability.

“The UN is totally at the disposal of Afghans and other actors in order to participate in the peace process and to help it consolidate,” he said.

Guterres said the UN role in peace talks with assistance of other organisations would be in the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of reconciliation.

“It is clear that peace among the key Afghan actors is an absolute must in order to fight terrorism because in pretext of terrorism, the conflict prevails,” he said.

He said the UN Office of Counter-terrorism was entirely at the disposal of Afghans and other stakeholders for its role in this regard.

Guterres said in a world where refugees get stigmatized, Pakistan opened its heart for Afghan refugees and called upon the international community to support Pakistan “very meaningfully” for its generous hospitality.

“I am encouraged by Pakistan’s strong commitment to work towards efforts to resume conditions conducive for Afghanistan’s development,” he said.

He mentioned the courage and resilience of displaced Afghans, saying they had a chance to peace and “we have no right to miss this opportunity”.

He urged the international donors to see Pakistan as an essential partner in the construction and peace in Afghanistan.

Asked about the future of Afghan youth born in Pakistan, the UN chief said the UNHCR doctrine always emphasized voluntary repatriation.

Besides the issue of refugees, he said the governments of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan needed close cooperation in order to address the problem of migration.

To a question about India’s denial to accept UN as mediator on Kashmir issue, he said, “Every conflict must be resolved with diplomacy and dialogue….and the human rights and fundamental principles must be observed anywhere.”

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan was willing to engage with international community to a gradual, time-bound and well-resourced repatriation of Afghan refugees.

He mentioned that a new realization emerged between Afghanistan and Pakistan to co-exist and support each other on ways to attain sustainable peace. However, he stressed that there was a need to be aware of spoilers, both inside and outside, to defeat their nefarious designs.

The foreign minister said Afghans were the main decision-maker about the future of their country.

“There is no military solution to this conflict and an intra-Afghan dialogue is important to lead towards better results,” he said. On return of Afghan refugees, he said, “We want them to go back to their homeland, for which we will facilitate them and continue to be responsible in fulfilling this obligation.”

Qureshi said Afghan refugees were the ‘most natural ambassadors’ to make linkages between the two countries as many of them were born, groomed and educated in Pakistan.

He mentioned that Pakistan was not making discriminatory treatment to needy patients under its social welfare programme.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi stressed the commitment to cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

He recalled organizing a global refugee forum by UNHCR in Geneva and launch of a platform to rally more support for solutions. —