ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday allowed nearly 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees to remain in the country by granting yet another three-month ‘interim’ extension till September 30.
The interim extension implies that the caretaker government has left it to the discretion of the next elected government to make a final call — should it wish to continue with the extension or revoke it. The decision was taken in a weekly cabinet huddle presided over by Caretaker Prime Minister Justice (retd) Nasirul Mulk.
According to official sources, the cabinet took up an agenda item moved by the States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) ministry. After deliberations, the meeting accorded interim approval for a 90-day extension in the stay of registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
Although an official statement did not specify the date, sources said that the cabinet nodded for allowing the listed Afghan refugees to reside in Pakistan till September 30.
“The meeting also discussed in detail the issue of extension in stay of the Afghan refugees. It was decided to grant an interim extension of three months to the registered refugees present in the country. It was further decided to place the matter before the incoming elected government,” said a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office.
A source privy to the matter said the cabinet had left it to the next elected federal government to finally decide whether or not it intended to continue the extension granted by the caretaker government. “The extension granted to Afghan refugees will be temporary in nature till a decision of the next government. It will be up to them to hand an outright and immediate rejection to this extension, to further extend it or to keep status quo,” said the source.
On January 31, the cabinet approved a 60-day extension in the registered Afghan refugees stay in Pakistan till March 31. The development coincided with the arrival of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) chief Masoom Stanekzai and Interior Minister Wais Barmak in Pakistan (on January 31). The two officials reportedly met the then prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and other senior security officials. Upon the expiry of this deadline on March 31, the federal cabinet granted a 90-day extension, allowing Afghan refugees to stay in Pakistan.
Under a trilateral agreement signed with Afghanistan and the United Nations, Pakistan has issued Proof of Registration (PoR) cards to the Afghan refugees who are registered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The PoR cards allow these refugees to live in Pakistan for a fixed time period set by the federal government, take up jobs here and even purchase property.
The UNHCR’s official data suggests that near 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees are still residing in Pakistan while more than 2.5 illegal Afghan immigrants are also residing in the country and continue to pose serious security challenges.
Meanwhile, the cabinet approved an amendment to include National University of Technology (NUTCH) in Schedule-II of Rules of Business, 1973. The meeting also approved Financial Institution Rules, 2018 and appointing FIA as the Investigating Agency as required under Section 20(7) of Financial Institutions (Recovery of Finances) Ordinance (FIRO), 2001. Budget of Capital Development Authority for the year 2018-19 was also approved by the cabinet, according to PMO statement.