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ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi Friday said Pakistan had allocated $1 billion for reconstruction and a prosperous future of Afghanistan. While virtually at a high-level consultation on return and reintegration of Afghan refugees held in Geneva, the president said Pakistan was ready to assist Afghanistan in its rebuilding and also help reintegration of millions of refugees into their society through skill learning.

The president said Pakistan and Afghanistan had the potential to become a 'geo-economic and geo-strategic hub' allowing goods to move from Central Asia through Afghanistan into Pakistan and towards the sea, and vice versa.

After Afghanistan, he said, Pakistan was the second most-affected country that suffered the devastation of Afghan war for four decades.

He said the benefits of peace in Afghanistan would also be benefiting Pakistan.

The president said on-ground development plans in Afghanistan were important for incorporation of Afghan refugees.

President Alvi said Pakistan, for last 40 years, had been hosting a sizeable number of Afghan refugees on its soil, and offered that it could further help Afghans in learning skills required to rebuild their country.

President Alvi expressed satisfaction that the Afghan refugees, who stayed in Pakistan for two or three generations, would be returning to their homeland with a lot of skills including entrepreneurship expertise learnt in Pakistan.

He said the people of Afghanistan had the final authority to decide about their political and economic governance.

The president commended the work done by the UNHCR for the rehabilitation of Afghan refugees including by its incumbent head Filippo Grandi and his predecessor Antonio Guterres.

He congratulated the Afghans, their government, and the Taliban for coming together and moving towards a peace process, which he said "had its own dynamism of dividends for the people of Afghanistan."

He said Pakistan played an important role in resumption of peace process in Afghanistan.

Calling it a 'very important and golden period,' he said opportunities were coming across in the shape of prospects for peace and security in Afghanistan.

He recalled that all circles in Pakistan, whether political or general masses, never opposed the hosting of the Afghan refugees.

He said, "Never has been any voice within Pakistan that the Afghan refugees should be sent back, but with dignity.

He expressed confidence that the conference would prove as a peace-building effort 'beyond the ending of war and entrenching of peace within the Afghan society.'

The consultation, on subject of 'Return and reintegration: Building a future for all Afghans' was organised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the lead-up to Afghanistan Conference 2020, to be held in Geneva on Nov 23-24.

The main objective of the high-level consultation was to ensure that return and reintegration of Afghan refugees was included in the Afghan peace process as well as in Afghanistan's development plans.

The event highlighted the need for continued support to Afghan refugees and the host communities.

The high-level segment featured video statements of President of Afghanistan Dr Ashraf Ghani, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, and UN Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.

The UNHCR head, Filippo Grandi, also addressed the event. The participants highly appreciated the hospitality and protection extended by Pakistan to Afghan refugees for the last 41 years.

They also lauded Pakistan's positive and key role in promotion of Afghan peace process.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020