Snail pace refugee repatriation

Lack of political will and policy of appeasement of the leadership of Baluchistan based ethnic political party has affected the repatriation process of Afghan Refugees from Pakistan. The federal government has extended the stay period of Afghan Refugees till 30th June of this year. The repatriation process has been resumed from 1st March which is going with a snail pace as 10-12 families of Afghan Refugees return to Afghanistan from Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. The number of Afghan Refugees who return from Baluchistan to the country of their origin may be less as the leadership of PkMAP openly opposes their return. If the repatriation process does not gain sufficient momentum then the deadline for the stay of Afghan Refugees has to be extended for the next 10-20 years to send back 2.7 million refugees.

In December, a senior official of Chief Commissioner Afghan Refugees made a happy announcement about the preparation of comprehensive repatriation plan but it went to the backburner due to the complacency of the Ministry of SAFRON. In January, Afghan Ambassador Umar Zakhelwal categorically told Jirga of Afghan Refugee elders to direct the Afghan nationals to make preparations for homeward journey. In a lighter vein, he said if Afghan Refugees can convert barren lands in Pakistan into fertile areas blooming with flowers and greenery then they can reconstruct their motherland to make it prosperous. It is the Ministry of SAFRON which has not even started the spadework for chalking out this plan. Surprisingly, Federal Minister, Abdul Qadar Balch in his meeting with the Deputy Secretary of State Nancy Izoo Jakson in January urged the United States to work out a plan for the repatriation of Afghan Refugees. It was a skewed logic for giving this task to a country other the one hosting the Afghan National. It is the prime responsibility of the Ministry of SAFRON to prepare a framework for the refugee repatriation in consultation with the UNHCR and ask the international community for funding it. The United States can the most encourage the Afghan government to create conducive environment for the return of Afghan Nationals.

The presence of millions Afghans has adversely affected the inland security of Pakistan. The terrorists of different banned outfits enter Pakistan from Afghanistan, get morphed with Afghan Refugees and easily succeed in carrying out terrorist activities in Pakistan. The Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa had referred to this aspect of terrorism problem in his speech at a security conference in Germany. Apart from the national security issues due to the presence of Afghan Refugees, they are a big burden on the scarce resource of the country. The federal government takes a unilateral decision of giving extension for the stay of Afghan Refugees without taking on board the provincial governments and important agencies of the state. Decisions that have a direct bearing on the national security have to be taken in consultation with all stakeholders. The repatriation plan of Afghan Refugees needs preparation without further delay and should not be made hostage to vested interest.