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Pakistan Pledges Not to Push Out Afghan Refugees

The number of returnees under the program has dropped drastically this year to only 6,000 from around 60,000 in 2015

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Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Image source: www.en.rahapress.af
  • There has been a police crackdown on the Afghani refugees in Pakistan
  • The Pakistani Government said that they have no intention of pushing the Afghan refugees out of Pakistan
  • Pakistan has extended the stay of registered Afghan refugees for another six month, a day before the June 30 deadline was to expire

Recently, there has been a report of a police crackdown on the Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Pakistan government is encouraging them to return to their country. An official of the government had clarified that they did not intend to force them to return home but are merely encouraging them to do so.

A police crackdown in Pakistan has rounded up and deported hundreds of Afghan refugees in recent weeks. But authorities say Afghans with legal refugee status are not being targeted, nor will they be pushed out of the country.

The arrests have mainly taken place in the northwestern border province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which hosts most of the estimated 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees, in addition to a sizable number of illegal settlers, according to the U.N. refugee agency. Many of them have fled persecution and armed conflict in Afghanistan.

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An Afghan border policeman takes position following clashes with Pakistani forces on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan in eastern Nangarhar province, June 15, 2016. Image Courtesy : VoA
An Afghan border policeman takes position following clashes with Pakistani forces on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan in eastern Nangarhar province, June 15, 2016. Image Courtesy : VoA

Monitoring the border

The crackdown coincides with stepped up Pakistani calls for the international community to help in the repatriation of Afghan refugees, citing security concerns and financial constraints for hosting them for more than three decades. It also comes at a time when relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have deteriorated because of border tensions.

“We have hosted them for over 30 years, it is time for them to return home in conditions of dignity and honor,” said Tariq Fatemi, Pakistani prime minister’s key aide on foreign policy matters.

Free to go

But he clarified the government is encouraging Afghan refugees to return to their home and has “no such intention of pushing them out or coercing them out.”

“But we are convinced that many of these refugees, particularly those who are undocumented, they could be harboring militants and others, and creating a law and order situation,” he said.

Afghan refugees are seen at UNHCR’s Voluntary Repatriation Centre in Peshawar, Pakistan on June 23, 2016. Image Courtesy : VoA
Afghan refugees are seen at UNHCR’s Voluntary Repatriation Centre in Peshawar, Pakistan on June 23, 2016. Image source: Reuters

Afghan officials said on Wednesday, June 29, Pakistan has extended the stay of registered Afghan refugees for another six month, a day before the June 30 deadline was to expire.

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A UNHCR spokeswoman, Dunya Aslam Khan, said her agency has received no reports of any mass arrests or deportations of registered Afghan refugees. They are legally protected, she told VOA, and the agency is able to immediately secure release of documented refugees in case they are arrested.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi talks to an Afghan refugee woman during his visit to the UNHCR’s Repatriation Center in Peshawar, Pakistan, June 23, 2016. Image Source: VoA

During a visit to Pakistan last week, the UNHCR Chief Filippo Grandi dismissed Pakistan’s assertions that Afghan refugees have become a source of terrorism in the country.

In meetings with Pakistani officials, he stressed the whole refugee population must not be blamed or penalized if a few of them have been involved in criminal acts.

During his trip he also announced an increase in assistance packages for registered Afghan refugees families, who return to Afghanistan under the UNHCR facilitated voluntary return program.

The number of returnees under the program has dropped drastically this year to only 6,000 from around 60,000 in 2015. (VOA)

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Pakistan Occupied Kashmir Areas Feature in New Political Map Released by Government

In a gazette notification, the government also enumerated the territories in Leh district as: "Gilgit, Gilgit Wazarat, Chilas, Tribal territory

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Pakistan, Kashmir, Political
The Ladakh UT consists of two districts -- Kargil and Leh -- while the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory comprises 20 districts. Pixabay

In the wake of the creation of separate Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, the government on Saturday released a new political map of the Indian Union, with 28 States and nine Union Territories (UTs). Pakistan.

The new map denotes the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and surprisingly includes three districts — Muzaffarabad, Punch and Mirpur — which are under Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Pakistan, Kashmir, Political
New Political Map of India. PIB

The Ladakh UT consists of two districts — Kargil and Leh — while the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory comprises 20 districts.

In a gazette notification, the government also enumerated the territories in Leh district as: “Gilgit, Gilgit Wazarat, Chilas, Tribal territory and Leh and Ladakh, except the present territory of Kargil.”

Pakistan, Kashmir, Political
The new map denotes the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and surprisingly includes three districts — Muzaffarabad, Punch and Mirpur — which are under Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). Pixabay

The order was called the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Removal of Difficulties) Second Order, 2019.

The map of J&K UT comprises 20 districts, including Muzzarfarabad, Mirpur and the area of Poonch which are under PoK.

In 1947, the former Jammu and Kashmir state had 14 districts — Kathua, Jammu, Udhampur, Reasi, Anantnag, Baramulla, Poonch, Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, Leh and Ladakh, Gilgit, Gilgit Wazarat, Chilhas and Tribal Territory.

On the recommendation of the Parliament, President Ram Nath Kovind effectively abrogated Article 370 from the Indian Constitution and issued the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, in August.

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On October 31, J&K ceased to exist as a state and was officially bifurcated into two UTs — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. (IANS)