Centre’s decision on Afghan refugees softens K-P stance

The PTI-led provincial govt postpones plans of protest against federal govt

Sardar Sikander September 21, 2016
The existing extension to the registered Afghan refugees will expire on December 31, 2016, while the federal cabinet under the PM’s chair on September 9, extended the registered Afghan refugees stay from January 1-March 31, 2017. PHOTO: INP

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) may be preparing to take on the federal government through a protest campaign for accountability of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family. However, the party’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government has lately ‘softened up’ towards the Centre to discard a separate protest plan.

The federal cabinet’s decision to grant only three-month extension to registered Afghan refugees’ stay in Pakistan has played a role in assuaging the hostility between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led federal government and PTI’s K-P government.

Government extends Afghan refugees' stay until early 2017

Even though, the decision apparently came in the backdrop of ongoing session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), where Pakistan intends to strengthen its stance on Afghanistan, ‘by taking high moral ground’, background discussions with government officials and senior PML-N and PTI leaders indicate that the matter also has political dimensions.

Requesting anonymity, a federal government official said the cabinet wanted to extend registered Afghan refugees stay till December 31 next year, as is evident from the cabinet meeting’s agenda issued prior to the meeting.

However, in view of the input of the K-P government, which was reportedly opposed to the extension till next year-end, only a three-month extension was given.

In the last few months, reports had been surfacing that the K-P government wanted early repatriation of Afghan refugees owing to economic constraints and security reasons. Prior to Afghan refugees’ recent extension episode, the ties between the K-P and the Centre were on a downward trajectory.

Recently, the K-P Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and his cabinet members proceeded to warn the Centre that the K-P would launch protests against non-payment of outstanding dues, amounting to billions of rupees, payable to the province by the federation and also against prolonged power outages.

However, following the acceptance of the K-P government’s demand with regard to briefer extension in Afghan refugees’ stay, the situation has changed.

“The ice is melting,” commented a PTI senator on the condition of anonymity. “The K-P chief minister recently held a meeting with his ‘kitchen cabinet’ to decide that the protest plan has been deferred ‘for the time being’,” he said.

Afghan refugees leave Pakistan over tougher measures on visits home

Speaking to The Express Tribune, the K-P lawmaker and a close confidante of the CM, Sardar Idrees, appreciated the federal government’s decision. He, however, stopped short of confirming that the K-P government’s protest plan against the Centre was deferred for an unspecified time.

“The political situation keeps unfolding on a daily basis and the decisions are needed to be taken accordingly. There are no hard and fast rules in this regard. We believe in taking the right decisions at the right time,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s Adviser Amir Muqam also offered an indirect response.

“The decision to extend the registered Afghan refugees stay has been taken considering all the pros and cons. To say that it has political dimensions does not present the whole picture.  Apart from the K-P government’s stance and UNGA session, there is much more to the issue.

“Pakistan has internationally earned prestige and goodwill by hosting millions of Afghan refugees for decades. Throwing them out just like that would simply backfire. On the other hand, there are economic constraints. So, all options have been weighed before taking the decision,” Muqam said.

The existing extension to the registered Afghan refugees will expire on December 31, 2016, while the federal cabinet under the PM’s chair on September 9, extended the registered Afghan refugees stay from January 1-March 31, 2017.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2016.


molana diesel | 6 years ago | Reply Its just treating cancer with aspirin. The refugee problem needs to be addressed. Afghanistan deserves the services of its sons and daughters. Pakistanis needs visa to go to Afghanistan however afghan citizens hover in Pakistan without any sort of identity. Why is that? For 40 years we have been paying for it. Why Afghanistan take care of itself? Why they invited soviets in their country?
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