Refugee repatriation: Shifting the buck

The deadline for the stay of Afghan Refugees has expired on Wednesday. The National Security Committee had differed with the proposal of the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) about one year extension for their stay in Pakistan beyond 31st January 2018. An official of this Ministry had hinted last month about the preparation of emergency plan for the repatriation of Afghan Refugees in consultation with UNHCR. But no progress or even spadework whatsoever was made by the Ministry of SAFRON since then. Afghan Ambassador Umer Zakhelwal had also urged a Jirga of Afghan Refugee elders that the time has come for them to pack up for homeward journey and participate in the reconstruction of Afghanistan., although he lambasted  his government for not providing proper relief assistance to the Afghans who have returned home.

It appears that once again this most important issue has been put on the backburner because of political expediency and serving the vested interest of a Pukhtun Nationalist politician from Baluchistan. Talking to US Deputy Secretary of State Nancy Izoo Jackson in Islamabad, Federal Minister for SAFRON Abdul Qadar Baloch urged the United States to chalk out a framework for the successful repatriation of Afghan Refugees keeping in view the security and economic situation of Pakistan. He said Pakistan has been facing multiple and complex problems due to the abnormally prolonged stay of Afghan Refugees.

This skewed logic of giving the task of working out the Afghan Refugees repatriation framework to a country other than the host is nothing but shirking away from the responsibility that the government of Pakistan has to fulfill. The SAFRON Minister appreciated the UNHCR relief assistance package and described it a major factor in refugees’ repatriation. He asked the US Deputy Secretary of State to work with Afghanistan for encouraging refugees to return back to their motherland. Strange enough, it is not the responsibility of the US alone to persuade Afghan government for the repatriation of its national from Pakistan. The federal government has the prime responsibility to interact with Afghan government and emphasize the return of the refuges. The message of Afghan ambassador to Afghan Refugees for making up their mind for the return journey is loud and clear. It is the government of Pakistan which seems confused and reluctant and this time around it is taking shelter behind the vague and inconclusive discussion in a round table meeting at the Institute of Policy Studies on 27th January about the repatriation of Afghan refugees. The incumbent federal government prefers to remain hostage to eulogizing and defending the former disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and deliberately ignores the worsening situation in Afghanistan which has a direct bearing on the peace and stability of this region.

Tolo news channel has reported that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani refused to take a condolence Phone Call from the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on late Tuesday night in connection with the recent spate of terrorist attacks in Kabul. The channel has claimed that Presdent Ghani is sending a delegation to share the evidence of these attacks with Pakistan Army. If the claim of refusing to take the Prime Minister’s telephone call by Afghan president is true then where our civilian leadership stands in the realm of foreign and security policy. A tweet from the spokesman of foreign office Dr Mohammad Faisal confirmed that a high-level Afghan delegation would like to visit Pakistan for discussion between the two countries. The delegation comprises Afghan Interior Minister Wais Barmak and National Directorate of Security Chief. The foreign office revealed on Tuesday that Pakistan had handed over more than two dozens suspects belonging to Taliban and their affiliated Haqqani network to Afghanistan. The handover took place in November last year just weeks before the maiden visit of Army Chief General to Kabul. However, their extradition was kept confidential till now.  It is an established fact that terrorists from their sanctuaries inside Afghanistan come and get morphed with Afghan Refugees to carry out attacks in Pakistan. The plan of repatriation of 2.4 million Afghan Nationals to their country should be on the front burner to eradicate the menace of terror attacks in Pakistan and slam the doors of Afghan government allegation against Pakistan.