The meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights was held here on Monday under the chairmanship of Dr. Mahreen Razzaq Bhutto on issues related to Afghan refugees.

In the meeting, Joint Secretary, Ministry of States & Frontier Regions apprised the committee that Afghan nationals who had arrived in Pakistan post August 2021 were not considered refugees but rather asylum seekers wanted to move forward to Europe, USA etc.

He informed that presently over 1.4 million registered Afghans, 0.81 million documented and an estimated 0.7 million non-documented Afghans were residing in Pakistan.

With over 1.4 million registered Afghans, Pakistan remains the second largest refugee hosting country in the world, he told the committee.

Meanwhile, the Joint Secretary recalled the diplomatic commitment as Pakistan is a signatory in tripartite agreement along with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) and Government of Afghanistan aimed at repatriating the Afghans on voluntary basis in a dignified manner and managing the stay of remaining case load in the country by adhering to the protection principle under the international protection norms.

Most of these recent asylum seekers are residing in urban areas, he said while highlighting the plight situation of Afghans, who had managed to move towards Pakistan following the takeover of Afghan Taliban, last year.

The procedure of UNCHR regarding extending their help to reach their destinations in Europe would take 3 to 5 years, he concluded.

The Director, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, informed the committee that Pakistan could not afford the influx of further refugees as the new arrivals were with purpose to move to various destinations.

In this connection, relevant embassies were contacted but they informed that they had already taken their share, moreover, they were not ready to take care of further refugees.

Meanwhile, the committee was also briefed by the representatives of Afghan refugees about their problems.

The Committee unanimously passed the joint resolution which was presented by Ms. Zahra Wadood Fatemi, Ms. Zeb Jaffar, Ms. Shaza Fatima Khawaja, Ms. Shams Un Nisa, Mr. Naveed Aamir Jeeva, Ms. Kishwar Zehra, Mohsin Dawar in regards to resolving the difficulties of Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

The committee further urged the government to immediately respond to the displaced Afghan Refugees in Pakistan on a humanitarian basis.

The Committee had also reiterated the need for a comprehensive policy for dealing with Afghan refugees as per Article 19 of the National Action Plan, 2014, and in accordance with the decision of the Federal cabinet in February 2017.

The representative of the National Commission on the Rights of Child (NCRC) briefed the Committee regarding the Commission.

He informed that the Commission was established on 28th February, 2020 as an independent oversight body to ensure compliance of United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC). For law reforms the NCRC reviewed all laws has helped provinces and Islamabad Capital territory in identifying gaps and suggested appropriate legislation.

Financial issues faced by the commission were also discussed and the committee directed the Ministry to immediately resolve the financial and administrative issues of the Commission.

The committee directed the Ministry of Law & Justice to scrutinize NCRC Act in light of Paris Principles in consultations of all stakeholders.

Honorable Members/MNAs/Movers Ms. Zahra Wadood Fatemi, Ms. Zeb Jaffar, Ms. Shaza Fatima Khawaja, Ms. Shams Un Nisa, Mr. Naveed Aamir Jeeva, Ms. Kishwar Zehra, Mr. Mohsin Dawar attended the meeting.