Pause in repatriation?

Editorial July 11, 2024


The decision to extend the refugee status of Afghans for a year is one-step forward and two-steps back. Literally, the government has gone back on its resolve to finish a lingering business of expatriating the Afghans for whom Pakistan is the second home. The task was supposed to be completed by January this year, but hit snags owing to revulsion on both sides of the divide. Estimates say there are more than 1.45 million registered refugees, and around a million more on UNHCR roll call. This staggering figure is simply in addition to many more who are in the shadows, and they are the ones who are a pain in the neck as their alleged collusion with unscrupulous elements keeps the security apparatus on their toes.

The federal cabinet’s decision, nonetheless, to extend the validity cards of refugees for a year is a surprise. But it seems the powers-that-be had opted for it to scale down the simmering tensions between the two countries, and the inability of Islamabad to ensure that the uprooted souls are safely sent back home. However, the consolation is that 500,000 refugees have been repatriated since October last year; and if the authorities had pushed it ahead with zeal and enthusiasm without giving in to second thoughts, the task would have been completed. It has to be kept in mind that one of the biggest social traumas came in from the western borders in the form of gun-culture, drugs and terrorism, and until and unless this diaspora is back home, sanguinity is a far cry.

Afghan refugees are also on the receiving end as they are exposed to dubious characters who exploit them for nefarious designs. The ethnic unrest in Karachi and crimes proliferating countrywide are a case in point, and necessitate bringing to full circle the repatriation agenda. This gesture of largesse should be appreciated by Kabul, and it is high time for the Taliban regime to work with Islamabad to not only nail down the cross-border intrusions but also to facilitate bringing home their brethren for good. This lease of extension should not come as a pause in initiatives to stringently monitor and subsequently expatriate the homeless mortals.


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