The federal minister for states and frontier regions (Safron), Engr. Shaukatullah, has said that 150,000 Afghan refugees in Pakistan are likely to be granted visa permits for a long-term stay in the country.
Shaukat told The Express Tribune that his ministry has prepared a comprehensive proposal to arrange the visas for businessmen, students, skilled workers and widows who are among the Afghan refugees, some of whom have lived in Pakistan for 30 years.
“The proposals are being finalised and will be implemented after approval,” the minister said. “We have been working with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees on the proposals for quite some time.”
Safron has the consent of the all provincial governments on the issue, a senior official from the ministry told The Express Tribune.
However, another official from the ministry of interior said a couple of provincial governments, including Punjab, have expressed reservations. The intelligence agencies and law enforcement departments are also worried over the proposals, as they could cause numerous security problems.
The official said the provincial governments are likely to express their opposition once the policy is made public. Shaukat is of the view that the proposals do not require approval by the federal cabinet or the ministry of provincial coordination. “The federal cabinet has nothing to do with the proposals,” he said.
According to the official estimate, 1.7 million registered and 1 million non-registered Afghan refugees live in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the ministry of foreign affairs has vehemently rejected proposals by certain Western countries that suggested absorbing the entire Afghan refugee population in Pakistan permanently. “The suggestions came during the last general assembly sessions of the United Nation,” said an official from the ministry.
“Those Western countries who are advocating the permanent stay for Afghan refugees should also share the financial burden of Pakistan.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2012.