Pakistan has indicated that it cannot bear keeping on its soil any longer at least illegal Afghan migrants who number around 400,000 out of the 1.7 million Afghan refugees living in the country. The deadline given by it to the UNHCR for their repatriation expired yesterday. The UNHCR acknowledges that it is the “largest and most protracted refugee crisis in the world” but warns that it has been “increasingly politicised”. On the other hand, KP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain is emphatic that law enforcement agencies have been asked to compile lists of Afghans illegally present in the province and as the deadline passed, they would be arrested, brought before the court and deported.
But as the stress on resources was seen depriving the locals of their rightful share and the country became awash with drugs and guns, they outlived their hospitality and the government looked for ways to have them repatriated to their country, Though with the help of the UNHCR a sizeable number of refugees did move back, yet the remaining ones are reluctant to leave Pakistan where a large number of them have established their businesses and their sons and daughters have grown up. Even those cooped up in camps are surviving with government handouts, secure from the dangers of war and with little prospects of making a living in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s decision to send them back might, apart from the resource-constraint factor, also be because of the unfriendly attitude of Kabul towards Islamabad. Both are justifiable reasons in state policy. While the humanitarian issue must be kept in mind, the government must give their repatriation top priority. Instead, our citizens stranded in Bangladesh and desperate to come to Pakistan should be welcomed.