Collective Call

When Pakistan announced the repatriation of 1.7 million unregistered Afghan refugees residing in the country last October, the backlash was severe. This criticism, however, overlooked the burden on Pakistan’s struggling economy, which has hosted these refugees for decades. The countries and coalitions responsible for the massive displacement of Afghan people towards Pakistan have gradually shirked their responsibility for the refugees. Busy with war and weapons, the United States and its NATO allies have withdrawn support for key United Nations humanitarian projects.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also suffers from a shortage of funds while displaced populations grow. In a meeting with UNHCR Commissioner Filippo Grandi, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif rightly highlighted the global community’s responsibility. Pakistan lacks the resources to accommodate or carry out the mass repatriation process in a dignified way. Handling 1.7 million people requires immense resources and help from the UN and its partners.

Beyond repatriation, the 1.45 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan need education and other essential services. Without cooperation from the UNHCR and dedicated funds, this cannot be achieved. Blind criticism must be replaced by an acknowledgment of Pakistan’s role in accommodating the second-largest refugee population for so long. This acknowledgment must then be followed by concrete assistance, both in repatriation and in supporting the refugees who will remain in Pakistan.

Not long ago, wealthy and resourceful European countries panicked when displaced Syrians entered their territories. In sharp contrast, Pakistan welcomed Afghan refugees with a sense of duty to a neighboring country. All global stakeholders should take collective responsibility, and the UNHCR must streamline assistance to sustain, return, or relocate Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt