ISLAMABAD: A majority of participants at a roundtable meeting have rejected the idea of forced repatriation of millions of Afghan refugees, calling such a move ‘unwise’ and ‘harmful’ for the national interest.
The roundtable meeting was organised on Saturday by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) to discuss a decision of the policymakers not to extend the Proof of Registration (PoR) cards of the refugees beyond January 31, 2018 and send them back to their country.
This decision is apparently taken in view of the increasing hostile attitude of Kabul towards Pakistan and the pressure tactics of Washington.
However, IPS Director General Khalid Rahman believes it is not possible to send back 2.4 million registered and an unknown number of unregistered refugees currently residing in the length and breadth of the country without a comprehensive plan and research-backed policy.
“There are two views about the presence of Afghan refugees in Pakistan – one group considers them an asset and the other a liability. However, the issue must not be seen in black and white as there are many grey areas in it with several shades,” he said.
“Decisions should not be based on perceptions and reactions… a lot of research and policy dialogues are needed to address this issue of critical national and regional importance,” he added.
Former chief of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) General (retd) Asad Durrani said repatriating millions of Afghans forcefully and ruining the investment of four decades “is not in the interest of Pakistan”.
“Two generations of them are born here and a majority of their youths have hardly seen their native areas. There may be fifth columnists among them but it is better that they stay here and are tracked instead of being sent back and allowed to do whatever they want to do against Pakistan,” he said.
Jumma Khan Sufi, author of bestseller Fareb-e-Na-Tamam and a former Paktun nationalist leader who has witnessed and documented the role of Afghan government in fomenting terror in Pakistan in the 1970s, rejected the approach of viewing Afghan refugees as asset or liability.
“Most of the anti-Pakistan government officials of Afghanistan have lived here as refugees and they can never respect the sovereignty and reality of Pakistan due to the superiority complex embedded in the historic national narrative of Afghans,” he said.
Sufi said the Afghan refugees issue should be seen as a humanitarian issue and addressed on the same grounds.
Terming forced repatriation of all Afghan refugees unrealistic, Brig (retd) Ishaq Ahmed, the director Intelligence and International Security Studies, called for categorising the Afghan refugees and offering them Pakistani nationality or business, work and student visas on the basis of certain criteria.
Former ambassadors Tajammul Altaf, Ayaz Wazir as well as Ibrar Hussain, Dr Adnan Sarwar, Dr Shehryar Khan, Brigadier (retd) Said Nazeer Mohmand, Sarwat Sultana, Waqar-un-Nisa, and an Afghan refugee scholar Zakir Hussain also aired similar views on the occasion.