Pakistan, Afghanistan meet to decide future of 3 million refugees

By PPI
Published: May 30, 2012
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Mahnoor, 5, an Afghan refugee girl, stands at the doorway of her family's camp on the outskirts of Peshawar. PHOTO: REUTERS

Mahnoor, 5, an Afghan refugee girl, stands at the doorway of her family's camp on the outskirts of Peshawar. PHOTO: REUTERS

Mahnoor, 5, an Afghan refugee girl, stands at the doorway of her family's camp on the outskirts of Peshawar. PHOTO: REUTERS Federal Minister of SAFRON Engr. Shaukatullah Khan and Afghan Minister for Refugees and Provincial Affairs Dr Jamaher Anwari being briefed by UNHCR in Islamabad on Tuesday. PHOTO: APP

ISLAMABAD: For almost three decades, Pakistan has played host to over 3 million Afghan refugees who first fled the fighting following the Soviet invasion in 1979. Over that period, the refugees have been a challenge for Pakistan’s meagre resources and international aid agencies to upkeep. On Tuesday, when representatives of respective refugee departments met in Islamabad, it was decided that refugees will be repatriated or relocated voluntarily and gradually.

In 2009, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the UN had signed a Tripartite agreement according to which the stay of Afghan refugees in Pakistan had been extended to December 2012. With little over six months remaining in the expiration of that agreement, the future for millions of Afghans still hangs in the balance.

From Islamabad on Tuesday, the voice of agreement was on voluntary repatriation. It is an agreement which has existed on paper for years, but has been witnessed infrequently at any of the innumerable border crossings along the Durand line.

Dr Jamaher Anwari, the Minister for Refugees and Rehabilitation of Afghanistan is currently on a four-day visit to Pakistan. He held a one-on-one meeting with the Federal Minster of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Engr. Shaukatullah Khan. The message out of that meeting was that of reasserting a deep and strong friendship between the two neighbouring countries.

At a meeting between a delegation of Afghan officials, Dr Anwari included, and officials from Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior, SAFRON, Foreign Affairs, Commissioners of Afghan Refugees from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Punjab, the more prickly issues facing refugees were discussed.

Pakistan made its policy clear, that it remained committed to the rehabilitation and development of Afghanistan. But the 3 million plus refugees, to whom unconditional hospitality has been extended for over three decades, will have to be resettled elsewhere, albeit per guidelines of voluntarism and gradualism embedded in the Tripartite agreement.

Many Afghan refugees have been unable to return to their motherland due to continued strife in the years leading on from the withdrawal of Soviet Union. A civil war after the Russians left prevented repatriation. War returned following the 9/11 attacks. A decade later as international troops plan an exit, Afghanistan is still not secure enough for refugees to return.

For his part, Dr Anwari raised concerns over the problems facing Afghan Refugees in camps. He pointed out the limited facilities for education,health and police harassment of camp inmates. He also recommended that Hajj visas should also be issued to refugee pilgrims.

Engineer Shaukatullah assuaged him that all relevant departments will seek to resolve all issues identified by the Minister on top priority. However, he also reminded the Afghan Minister that Pakistan was faced with resource constraints. He further warned the Afghan delegate that recent security related incidents have led to a change in local perceptions towards the refugees.

The delegation was briefed that Pakistan was offering 2000 scholarships to Afghan students. Reintegration grant too had been increased from $100 to $150 in 2011.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Amjad
    May 30, 2012 - 8:08AM

    Why can’t the Europeans and the US accept all these Afghani refugees? Pakistan has housed them for nothing for the last 30 years while the nation was helping to kick out the Soviets in Afghanistan and eventually end the Cold War. Most of these Afghanis live on state khayrat or social assistance in the West where they went as refugees because they don’t have jobs. Pakistan cannot afford to house these millions so let them go abroad and be less of a burden on the Pakistan economy.

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  • cypher
    May 30, 2012 - 8:27AM

    There is nothing to decide. Sent them home immediately. Including who were born in Pakistan. Give Pakistani Bengali’s their rights now.

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  • curious
    May 30, 2012 - 8:40AM

    Yes send them back even if they try to marry a Pakistani to stay in Pakistan, just send them back, the international community is giving Afghanistan billions of western world residents taxpayer funded money so go grab those handouts. And if all else fails you can go to India since Afghanistan always praises India. As neighbours Pakistan and Afghanistan should be cordial but always behind a picket fence dividing those two countries as neighbours do have to live their life within their boundaries.

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  • Naeem Siddiqui
    May 30, 2012 - 1:19PM

    Pakistan has done enough and suffered enough by hosting these afghan refugees, its time US and India should jointly share the burden of these refugees, IMO 1m should be sent to India and 2m to US with full rights of living , working, buying property and marrying locals as they use to have in Pakistan.

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  • A J Khan
    May 30, 2012 - 1:57PM

    Send them home. Don’t accept any refugee from any where. Pakistan has a real bad experience with the refugees. Afghan Refugees destroyed Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Other refugees destroyed Sindh.

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  • May 30, 2012 - 2:42PM

    Meager sources,
    fragile economy,
    three million refuge,
    it is absolutely unacceptable,
    they must be go back to their origin .

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  • May 30, 2012 - 3:01PM

    Should have more,wait.

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  • May 30, 2012 - 5:12PM

    Refugees penetrated in the body of our economy and destroyed it badly.
    there is no chances of their repatriation in the near future.
    It is an long standing issue and needs to resolve which bring us at the brink.

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  • ahmad
    May 30, 2012 - 6:56PM

    Frankly speaking it is very embarrassing when a Muslim countries comes with such ideas like you since the afghans move to Pakistan for that time Pakistan has not given a penny to afghan refugee the place they have lived they paid rent and bought food for themselves.
    Pakistan has given nothing to Afghan even their Basic Human rights are denied which Pakistan has signed the Human Rights Declaration when joining the U:N and Afghans have full right to seek asylum in Pakistan where there is war on going in Afghanistan and to live and be a citizen of Pakistan it is their human rights hope u r all are aware that 1 million of Pakistanis population lives in U.K today even U.K been non Muslim countries has given full rights for every immigration who migrated to U.K shame on you Pakistan that is not given anything to Afghan even afghan paid taxes thier and worked their for your and some of them are born there too shame on you that call u r self Muslims

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  • Ali
    May 30, 2012 - 10:54PM

    Only 1% of Afghan were involved in all crimes committed in Pakistan from 1980 till now. Afghan are not criminal people. They are loving peaceful and hard working people. Pakistan earned billion of Dollar due to these Afghan. We destroyed the even their homes in Afghanistan. And shifted all bricks iron and wood to Pakistan. The people of Pakistan and Afganistan are from the common Races. Pakistan is their 2nd HomeRecommend

  • May 31, 2012 - 1:52AM

    Time has arrived for india to show how much they love the afghan people, please give them refuge, only 3 million, should be easy!!

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  • Khan
    May 31, 2012 - 4:21AM

    @ahmad:
    I’m one of those around 1 million living in the UK who represent the Pakistani population of over 180 Million. I came here after getting a valid visa as a student through British embassy in Islamabad, spent around 2 Million Rs per year during my student life few years ago and have renewed it a few times from the Home office after showing them my purpose for staying here even though I can bet I pay more tax per year here than what all 3 million or so afghan refugees living in Pakistan would have in over 35 years, who owns and run billion dollar worth properties and businesses.
    You have free education in all our public schools, free healthcare and all equal rights despite being refugees but since you’re enjoying that for free and putting burden on our weak resources, you think you’re giving us a favor.

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  • Khan
    May 31, 2012 - 4:33AM

    @Ali:

    Only 1% of Afghan were involved in all crimes committed in Pakistan from 1980 till now. Afghan are not criminal people.

    Please go ahead and back up your figures with proof that only %1 of them are involved in it .. Do you think we live on Mars or what .. We have been hosting these refugees among us without any restrictions on them and we know what has happened to our society and country.
    We were peaceful and open society till 1978, when you guys started civil war in your country and your government invited USSR for help.
    There were no drugs or guns in Pakistan before opening borders for these refugees. The only solution is to close Durand line permanently and only allow people after getting valid business, educational and tourist visas via rail and air links only.

    Pakistan earned billion of Dollar due to these Afghan.

    From whom my friend? The only reason for Zia to jump in this mess was Pakistan’s obsession with Nuc-Arms after losing East Pakistan. Any money for refugees was distributed via International Organizations like UNHCR etc they don’t give hand outs but operate directly & indirectly through NGOs.

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  • Zubair
    May 31, 2012 - 4:42AM

    @ahmad:

    Frankly speaking it is very embarrassing when a Muslim countries comes with such ideas like you since the afghans move to Pakistan for that time Pakistan has not given a penny to afghan refugee the place they have lived they paid rent and bought food for themselves.

    Bravo my friend, thank you for giving us this huge favor .. Perhaps you should have stayed back instead of earning tax free in Pakistan without any work documents, and putting pressure on our resources. I guess you’re not aware of supply & demand chain and its affects on inflation?.
    If its that simple please jump on the next flight to USA or Australia or why not Saudi Arabia or any other Arab country, lets see how much free education, healthcare, and Indefinite leave to live you get there for your huge favor.

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  • Sandy
    Jun 1, 2012 - 5:20AM

    @Amjad:
    Why should the US or Europe host them??? Why not one of the other ARAB COUNTRIES??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

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  • Tom
    Jun 1, 2012 - 5:23AM

    Stop looking to the Western nations to solve your constant Mideast problems. Why doesn’t one of the Mideast countries take in these people?

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  • abdul
    Jun 19, 2012 - 5:26AM

    Really you showed your self as the grand soon of those Punjabi’s and hind’s
    Pakistan did not kept them for that long Pakistan had enough food because of them from the of united nation and the Europe since the Russian war but i tell you what who every you are un educated and even have’t been serve in family

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  • abdul
    Jun 19, 2012 - 5:56AM

    i think non of you guys are familiar with the reality…i can only say god bless you cuz your country people showed who they are Pakistani will not trusted by the united nation and Europe go and ask you British government who’m actually give you this land Khyber is afghan land and if you look at your passport they show you as afghan my concern is all pakhton people of Pakistan they never show you any other Majority or any other….. i would say shame on thoes pakhtons who said that

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  • abdul
    Jun 19, 2012 - 6:01AM

    i did not thought people are burning of afghan’s this much but its good new’s for paki’s they are not acceptable in all over the world even the British government who made them for making vigilance in the whole world you guys are made for that paki’s

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  • Ali S
    Jul 18, 2012 - 1:05PM

    @Ali:

    Then why do they still hate Pakistan so much? Hypocrites.

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