We are proud of our hospitality and will continue supporting every initiative for establishment of peace, prosperity and development in Afghanistan. These views were expressed by Minister of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch while observing World Refugee Day.
The day was marked by a series of events across the country involving the government of Pakistan, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), its partners, and refugee communities.
Baloch reiterated the government of Pakistan’s commitment to voluntary, gradual and dignified return of Afghan refugees back to their home country. “A peaceful and developed Afghanistan is in the best interest of Pakistan and improving brotherly relations between the two countries is equally important for regional peace and security,” he added.
UNHCR’s Representative in Pakistan Indrika Ratwatte while paying tribute to resilience of refugees said around the world, conflicts are forcing record numbers of people to flee with a devastating impact on individuals and families. The media often focuses on fighting, failed peace accords and casualties, ignoring human stories. “This year’s campaign highlights our common humanity — by allowing people forced to flee to express themselves — to show that they are ordinary people living through extraordinary times,” he added.
Ratwatte expressed UNHCR’s appreciation for Pakistan’s generous hospitality in hosting the world’s most protracted refugee population and commended government’s current efforts in formulating a policy on the Afghan refugees.
Pakistan hosts the largest protracted refugee population (1.5 million) for over thirty-five-years.
In Pakistan, around 67 per cent of total registered Afghan refugee population live in urban or rural areas, while 33 per cent in established refugee villages. Since 2002, over 3.9 million Afghan refugees have returned home from Pakistan, assisted through the largest voluntary repatriation programme in UNHCR’s history.
In Islamabad, government officials, heads of diplomatic missions and UN agencies, UN staff and a large number of refugees from different countries attended a friendly cricket match between Afghan refugees and Pakistani host students. Dar-ul-Sukun, a local NGO, distributed free wheel-chairs among the disabled refugees.
The World Refugee Day is marked on June 20 every year as a tribute to courage and resilience of millions of people uprooted as a result of ongoing conflicts, war and natural disasters. In respect of Ramazan, the UNHCR in Pakistan marked the day on June 16.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2015.
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