ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch said Monday that Pakistan was treating refugees issue purely on humanitarian grounds, separating it from the security or political domain.
He made these remarks during the second round of Pak-Afghan Joint Committee (PAJC) meeting in Islamabad, which was organised by the Centre for Research and Studies (CRSS) as part of its track II initiative Beyond Boundaries.
He said Pakistan also dealt it as its international responsibility, adding educational and health facilities were available to the Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
“I am glad to find out that 50,000 people educated in Pakistan are serving in Afghanistan presently”, he said. He further noted that Pakistan had successfully issued 900,000 Afghan Citizenship Cards (ACC) to freshly documented Afghans.
He pointed out that out of the 6,000 educational scholarships for Afghan students to study in the Pakistani universities, the first tranche of 3,000 is completed while the second one is underway. “The technical/ vocational training programmes for Afghan youth are also going on and doing well”, he added.
The minister said that the present government in Afghanistan is far more serious than its predecessors. All repatriation should happen in close coordination to allow a dignified return. “We are working in close coordination with the UNHCR, Afghan embassy and Ambassador Dr Zakhilwal”, he added.
He said that Pakistan has prepared a time and resource specific plan which is under the consideration by the cabinet. The participating PAJC members urged their respective governments to deal the refugee issue on humanitarian grounds issue as they should not politicise it.
They should work together with the UNHCR and other UN-agencies to establish a realistic timetable for dignified voluntary return of the Afghan refugees. They urged to identify the actions for the capacity building of the Afghan authorities to cope with issues such as issuing passports to all those Afghans wanting to return to Afghanistan.
They also urged not to bracket refugees with terrorists and nor use refugees for political objectives. They also called for setting up a committee for better inter-agency and inter-governmental coordination for dignified return of refugee by their respective governments. “We cannot vouch for every individual refugee. We say if there are bad guys, deal with them according to the law but don’t bracket every one with terrorists”, said the UNHCR representative Ruven Menikdiwela attending the workshop.
She said that the UNHCR is encouraging voluntary return of Afghan refugees and support Pakistan’s idea that those who want to stay in Pakistan should get Afghan passports first and then stay in Pakistan with a valid visa. Pakistan has been providing access to schools and hospitals which is an in-kind contribution.
She said the kind of hospitality that Pakistan had shown to Afghan refugees is unprecedented and something rare but unfortunately its compassion had not been given sufficient recognition.
She requested the Pakistan government to give all stakeholders sufficient time ahead to prepare for implementation of repatriation plans. She further said that the Afghan government should prioritise building capacity of authorities in Kabul for issuing passports if it is ready to launch its resettlement programme for returning refugees.
The visiting delegation from Afghanistan comprised of Elay Ershad, Member of Parliament, Rangina Kargar, Member of Parliament, Mozammil Shinwari, Advisor to the Office of Afghan Chief Executive on Trade, Sayed Qutbuddin Roydar, former Deputy Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Abdul Hakeem Mujahid, former Permanent Representative of the Taliban government to the UN, Saleem Khan Kunduzi, former Governor of Nangarhar, Faridoon Sikander, Representative to Afghan Chief Executive, Lal Mohammad Durrani, Deputy of Provincial Assembly of Nangarhar, Khan Jan Alokozai, Co-Chairman and President of Pakistan and Afghanistan Joint Chambers of Commerce and Industries (PAJCCI), Naqibullah Safi, Membership Manager with Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mohammad Yonass Momand, Vice President Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industries (PAJCCI) and Baz Mohammad, Vice President Industrial Affairs of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI).
Members from Pakistan included Shazia Marri, Member of National Assembly, former Member of National Assembly Palwasha Khan, Dr Shoaib Suddle, Federal Tax Ombudsman, former Ambassador Qazi Humayun, former Ambassador Mian Sanaullah, Faiza, Executive Director/Secretary General of Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI), Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Deputy Executive Director at Sustainable Development Policy Institute, and Muhammad Tahir Khan and Rehman Azhar, who are renowned journalists.