Current practices regarding Afghan refugees are oppressive and the volume of published research on Afghan refugees has considerably decreased over the past decade.
This was revealed by ‘The Legal Environment in Pakistan for Registered Afghans’, a report launched by Community Appraisal and Motivation Programme on Friday.
The report was conducted with the financial assistance of the German foreign office and technical assistance of Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg, Germany.
The report highlights the legal status of registered Afghan refugees, which has changed over time in Pakistan and examines how Afghans have approached the Pakistani legal system in the absence of any refugee law. In addition to that, it also discusses the impact of local laws on their lives as ‘non-citizens’.
Speaking on the occasion, Muhammad Behzad Khan, the principal researcher, said international non-governmental organisations which provide legal assistance and protection to registered Afghans should encourage the Pakistani government to consider their situation in its state reports under all international human rights treaties.
In his recommendations, Khan has requested the government to recognise the registration cards of refugees as valid identity documents for transactions which require proof of identity.
“The government should also strengthen institutional mechanisms to disseminate information on policy changes with respect to refugees,” Khan added.
In addition to that, a national legal and administrative framework for the protection of asylum seekers and refugees should be supported and implemented, he said.
Stephen Roken, the German embassy’s deputy head of mission said the embassy wishes to support research initiatives to bring peace in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Planning Commission member and a noted human right activist Dr Saba Gul Khattak lamented that even women refugees do not enjoy all the rights and privileges available to Pakistani citizens.
However, she appreciated Pakistan for hosting Afghans with an open heart and for initiating a voluntary repatriation programme
States and Frontier Regions Secretary Habibullah Khan Khattak said the refugees’ issue is of paramount importance as it is also a national security issue. He called on the international community to work towards restoring peace in the region.
Afghan Refugees Commissioner for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Zaheerul Islam also criticised the international community for ‘not doing enough’. He urged them to support local and government initiatives to improve the living conditions of refugees.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2012.