ISLAMABAD Aug 21,2021 –
Pakistan has made arrangements for the possible arrival of Afghan refugees. About 500,000 to 700,000 refugees from Afghanistan could come to Pakistan, but officials say they will not accept refugees from Afghanistan.
According to Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi Pakistan is hosting 3 million Afghan refugees for decades.
According to sources, the Afghan Commissionerate has identified places for refugee camps near three crossing points.
The border areas of North Waziristan and Chitral have been selected for Afghan refugee camps.
Sources said that camps for Afghan refugees will be set up in Khyber district near Torkham border and in North Waziristan near Ghulam Khan border.
Sources said that a refugee camp would be set up near Erandu crossing point in Chitral if required.
Afghan Refugee Commissioner Abbas Khan said in this regard that Pakistan has decided not to allow more Afghan refugees to come.
He also said that if there was a human tragedy, Pakistan was fully prepared for it.
Of the 2,640-kilometer boundary with Afghanistan, Pakistan has fenced nearly 90% and deployed the army and the Frontier Constabulary, a militia under the federal interior ministry, to man it.
Pakistan is not a party to 1951 Convention or 1967 Protocol about refugees.
Three waves of Afghan refugees
According to American media reports Almost 3 million Afghan refugees, half of them unregistered, have been living in Pakistan since the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and subsequent waves of violence and later a civil war, according to the U.N.
By the beginning of 1981, some 3.7 million refugees had fled to Iran and Pakistan.
After a year-long siege, the Taliban took Kabul in 1996, and had gained control of most of the country by 1998. many Afghans, especially the educated, fled.
A final wave of refugees numbering 200,000 to 300,000 left Afghanistan during the U.S.-led invasion of October 2001.
Pakistan allowed refugees freely move and work
Several dozen camps were set up beginning in 1979, most of them in the KHP, then called Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and a few in Balochistan. Although the Pakistan government did not allow the primarily rural Afghans to own or work the land, it did to permit them freely move and work within the country.
Afghan refugees and their return
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report published in January 2007 says “UNHCR has helped 3.69 million Afghan refugees return to Afghanistan since March 2002, marking the largest assisted return operation in its history. In addition, more than 1.11 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan without availing themselves of UNHCR’s assistance, bringing the total number of returnees to at least 4.8 million.”
The UNHCR report further says, “Despite the massive returns, possibly 3.5 million registered and unregistered Afghans still remain in these two countries of asylum — up to 2.46 million in Pakistan and more than 900,000 in Iran — making Afghans the second-largest refugee population in the world. These numbers are far greater than the initial working assumption in 2002 of 3.5 million refugees; in fact, the total is believed to be more than 8 million.
Registration of Afghan refugees
Registration of Afghans began on October 15, 2006, and was conducted by Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) with the support of UNHCR and the government’s Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees. To encourage Afghans to come forward for the registration, those who are registered are given a new identity document entitling them to live and work in Pakistan for three years. The validity period of the documentation was issue and was negotiated among UNHCR, the GoP, and the government of Afghanistan.
Initially, only those Afghans counted in the census (about 2.5 million) could register, but in December 2006, the list was expanded to include all Afghans who could show documented evidence as proof that they were living in Pakistan at the time the census was conducted. The idea was to provide for a transition period during which Afghans may reconnect with Afghanistan and ultimately return home. As of January 17, 2007, 1.5 million had registered. The registration was supposed to end on December 31 but has been extended twice — the first time until January 19, 2007, and then again to February 2, 2007.
This agreement expired in June this year and has not been extended as yet.
There are also reports that many Afghans reportedly cross the border regularly, without documentation, and Islamabad does not appear to have the resources to control this flow.
In July 2021, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said “Pakistan is hosting 3 million Afghan refugees for decades, however, it cannot afford to welcome more refugees if the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates again.”