Safe Returns

As preparations to repatriate Afghan refugees are underway, there is no doubt about how difficult yet necessary this direc­tive by the government has been. The recent rise in militant activities in Pakistan necessitates the enforcement of this decision since the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan contin­ues to add a layer of threat to the security of Pakistan. According to UNHCR data, there are about 2.18 million documented Afghan ref­ugees residing in Pakistan. Following the increase in attacks by the TTP and the infiltration of TTP members into Pakistan across the border, this repatriation drive seeks to culminate the security threat Pakistan faces, once and for all.

While the main objective of this drive is to address security con­cerns and formalise the status of undocumented refugees, the gov­ernment must ensure that repatriation efforts are conducted in a way that minimises disruption to the lives of the refugees and their con­nections to the communities they have been a part of in Pakistan.

The repatriation process, set to commence on the 15th of April, must be carried out with utmost compassion and diligence. Paki­stan has remained a homeland for many of these refugees for de­cades, and while the return of these refugees to Afghanistan is vital, it is mandatory for us to ensure that these refugees are well taken care of. Many of these refugees have established familial and histor­ical bonds with the Pashtun community, and therefore, the entire process becomes rather sentimental for these communities. There are challenges and hardships awaiting these refugees back in Af­ghanistan since the process of reintegration into a new community will not be easy. Hence, the need to show empathy and compassion becomes our parting gift to these affected communities.

From a security standpoint, the second phase of this repatriation drive is the need of the hour to put an end to the rise in violence cre­ated by the TTP in Pakistan. It is the duty of the government to en­sure that the safety of its citizens is not threatened at any cost. How­ever, the government needs to set an example by honouring these refugees and assisting them in the best way possible to abide by the law and make the process smoother for the government of Pakistan.

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