Vague policy on Afghan nationals

Vague policy on Afghan nationals

The deadline for the stay of registered Afghan refugees expires on 30th June and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa government has asked the federal government that further extension in their stay should not be granted. There are genuine reasons for this tough stance if the frontline lines status of the province and periodicity of terrorist attacks on its soil are taken into account. Both frontline provinces Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and Baluchistan are the worst hit by a variety of terrorist attacks in the form of suicide bomb blasts to the incidents of mass shooting. With fencing of Pak-Afghan border in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa the occurrence of terrorist attacks have significantly decreased but in Baluchistan the security situation is far from satisfactory.

In Khyber Pukhtunkhwa the estimated population of Afghan nationals is 2.5 million which include 1.6 million registered Afghans and 0.9 million unregistered ones. In the past the provincial government had started the arrest and deportation of Afghan nationals who were staying illegally but each time the campaign lost its steam for the reasons not told to the people who want total repatriation of Afghan refugees both registered and unregistered. As the expiry of deadline for the stay Afghan refugees is drawing near and hardly two weeks remain police has arrested 1000 illegally staying Afghans and a large number of them have been deported. After the APS terrorist attack, the demand for refugee repatriation had gained momentum from the provincial government and the people of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. But the PML-N government in the center did not seriously consider it because the leadership of its allied party Pukhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party wanted to keep the Afghan nationals in Pakistan indefinitely. In the aftermath of recent attack on a checkpost of security forces in North Waziristan, federal Minister for Communication Murad Saeed alleged that Mahmood Khan Achakzai had made 25000 CNICs for the Afghan nationals.

It was reported in the print media in February last year that National Security Committee had differed with proposal of Ministry of SAFRON for extension of one year in the deadline for the stay of registered Afghan Refugee beyond 31st January, 2018. Since then extensions of three months are being given pending the completion of voluntary repatriation process which is going on with snail pace because few refugee families turn up at the UNHCR Peshawar center and none of them at Quetta center. This is due lack of interest of the Ministry of SAFRON in working out a comprehensive repatriation plan in consultation with the UNHCR. Once last year, an official of this ministry hinted at the formulation of repatriation plan but no progress was made or even spadework was done then. However, it did invite a sharp response from the then Afghan ambassador Umer Zakhelwal. He told a Jirga of Afghan refugee elder to be mentally prepared for mass repatriation to their motherland to undertake the gigantic task of its reconstruction, although he lambasted Kabul government for not providing proper relief assistance to the Afghans who have returned to Afghanistan. This seems to be the major reason which compels the repatriated Afghan nationals to reenter Pakistan illegally through the porous border of Baluchistan with the connivance of Pakistani officials on the Pak-Afghan border. This practice not only undoes the extremely slow refugee repatriation process but also encourage the illegal entry of more Afghan nationals into the country.

In his analysis on the rising wave of terrorist attacks during last month, Home Minister of Baluchistan Laiqat Shahwani described the presence of over one million Afghan Refugees in the province as a major risk factor for national security and strongly advocated their fast track repatriation and putting in place a mechanism of strictly regulating their daily movement by keeping them under strict surveillance. The risk factor connected with the extremely prolonged stay of millions of Afghan nationals and their reentry into Pakistan after repatriation without travel documents through border in Baluchistan need utmost attention of the federal government.

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