ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to cancel registrations of over 1,000 Afghan refugee families in Pakistan since they pose a serious ‘security threat’, according to highly classified official documents seen by The Express Tribune.
According to the documents, immediate relatives of 1,064 Afghan refugee families are either working in the Afghan National Army, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Afghan National Police or other sensitive Afghan government departments.
Unregistered refugees make their way back to Afghanistan
Relatives of some of the families in the list are serving at senior posts in Afghan law enforcement agencies with at least one such relative serving as a Major in the ANA. Most of these families are currently living in designated camps for registered Afghan refugees, though some live outside the camps.
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Home Department had recently shared the list of these families, data about which its civil Intelligence agencies had compiled, with the federal interior ministry with a request that all such families should be deported to Afghanistan after the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) cancels their Proof of Registration (PoR) cards.
The documents suggested that Nadra was asked to cancel the PoR cards, but the authority refused stating that it cannot do so unilaterally.
“PoR card database is owned by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Nadra cannot de-register any individual unless they are formally repatriated and de-registered through the mechanism given in the agreement with UNHCR.”
Nadra further clarified that their agreement with UNHCR provides no mechanism to deal with such cases.
An Interior Ministry spokesperson was asked for comments over the issue through a written questionnaire but he did not respond.
When contacted, the UNHCR spokesperson Duniya Khan said they have not been contacted by anyone in the Pakistan government on the specific subject.
She added while the UNHCR supports and agrees on the voluntary return of refugees in safety and dignity, it does not comment on individual cases.
“Our agency encourages governments, including the government of Pakistan to honour their commitment to the principle of (international law called) non-refoulement, which is the key to international refugee protection,” Khan added.
Time to vacate: Afghan nationals asked to shift to refugee camps in Shabqadar
Quoting the 1951 convention on refugees, she reiterated that refugees must not be expelled or returned to situations where their life or freedom would be under threat and that states bear the primary responsibility of their protection.
Currently, as many as 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees are living in Pakistan along with an estimated equal number of un-registered Afghan refugees. In late June, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif extended the validity of PoR cards for Afghan refugees till December 31, 2016.
However, the government has also decided that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would approach the Afghan government on the political and diplomatic level to pursue and devise modalities which ensure the early return of Afghan refugees.
Pakistan has come under fire from the United Nations and Afghanistan for allegedly harassing refugees by blaming them for terrorism amid growing public calls for their deportation and worsening relations with Kabul.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2016.
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