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Friday, 21 June 2019 14:30

Afghan refugees regard Pakistan as home

Hafez Ullah Haideri, 47, has been living in Pakistan over the past four decades as an Afghan refugee. He has a vague image of his house in Afghanistan as he was very young when his father had to leave their hometown due to unrest.

Naturally, like millions of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, Haideri feels more associated with Pakistan, a land which does not belong to him yet he loves more than his ancestral Afghanistan.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Pakistan is hosting over 1.4 million Afghan refugees, making the country the second largest host of refugee population in the world.

Some refugees have been living in Pakistan for three generations. They have established their business here, and some of them have even married locals and have been deeply integrated into the society. They do not think of going back to Afghanistan as it would mean starting-over again.

However, the interim stay of Afghan refugees extended by the Pakistani government is coming to an end on June 30, and Minister of State for States and Frontier Region Shehryar Khan Afridi affirmed that his country supports voluntary repatriation of the Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan in safety and dignity.

In a recent meeting, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the UNHCR agreed to launch an awareness programme to enable Afghan refugees to make a decision to voluntarily return, with the facilitation and coordination of Pakistan.

Many Afghan refugees hope that the Pakistani government will again extend the deadline of their stay in the county. However, it is still unclear whether the Pakistani authorities will do it or not.

According to the Minister almost 70 percent of the refugee population have been integrated with mainstream Pakistani population, while the rest live in refugee camps.

Local analysts believed that with shrinking international support to Afghan refugees in Pakistan, it will be hard for the country to bear such a big refugee population with its limited resources.

Kalsoom Sumra, assistant professor of Public Policy at the Comsats Institute of Information and Technology Islamabad, said that 85 percent of the refugee population are being patronized by developing countries across the world, and it is very unfortunate that developed countries keep on shutting their doors on them.

"If developed nations show support to Pakistan and play their roles according to their international commitments and UN conventions, refugees can have a good life style in their camps with better education and health facilities, without being a burden on Pakistani economy,” said Afridi at an event that the world should get united to heal the wounds of refugees who were torn by wars across the world.

"Why the world needs a body of a child on a coast to wake up to the refugee issue? It's about time that the nations who are silent spectators should come forth and extend support to Afghan refugees."

Darul Ihsan Media Desk

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