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ISLAMABAD: As withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan has entered its crucial stage, Pakistan is devising a strategy to deal with an estimated influx of 0.7 million Afghan refugees by averting entry of terrorist elements into the country. Well informed sources told Business Recorder consultations were under way at both civil and military level to undertake necessary measures, including strict monitoring of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, early completion of fencing of the border and electronically linking entry at Chaman and other crossing points as part of a broader strategy.

“We are closely watching the situation and the government would make every effort to respond effectively to any situation accordingly,” a senior government official said. He added that Pakistan was concerned about the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, as it would also have serious repercussions for Pakistan.

Talking to Business Recorder, Chief Commissioner of Afghan Refugees Saleem Khan said the government was expecting arrival of around 0.5 to 0.7 million Afghan refugees in case of further deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan.

“Pakistan’s foremost strategy is to continue to make serious and sincere efforts so that the peace process leads to a peaceful and durable political solution of the Afghan conflict,” he said.

However, in case of any unfolding unfortunate situation, consultations were under way to devise an effective strategy by focussing on different dimensions such as security, social, humanitarian and international defined as necessary assistance of the world community required for hosting such a huge number of refugees, he added.

He further stated that no estimate had yet been made as to the required funds to host such a large influx of refugees, adding that government of Pakistan would do whatever it could in its capacity.

“It is not the responsibility of Pakistan alone; the international community is equally required to play its role for a durable peace, but also in handling the influx of refugees into the country,” said the chief commissioner Afghan refugees.

He pointed out that Pakistan still hosted around three million Afghans under three different categories and provided them necessary protection. The people of Pakistan have demonstrated exemplary values of generosity, solidarity and compassion towards the refugees in the country, showcased in Pakistan’s inclusive policies on public health, education and livelihoods, he added.

The people of Pakistan have contributed more than their fair share of shouldering an international responsibility by hosting millions of refugees. Pakistan has also been playing a key role in facilitating sustainable peace in Afghanistan.

To a question about preventing entry of the anti-Pakistan elements such as the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its splinter organizations believed to be taking refuge in Afghanistan following operation Zarb-e-Azb in June 2014, he said the security dimension of the possible arrival of the Afghan refugees was being discussed to prevent anti-state elements re-entering the country.

“We are aware of the fact that such elements can also make their way into the country under the garb of refugees, but a strategy is being developed to keep a close on eye on them,” he added.

Qaiser Khan Afridi, spokesperson UNHCR Pakistan, while talking to Business Recorder said that UNHCR was concerned about current violence in Afghanistan. “We are observing the situation closely in the region. We hope that peace and stability will be fully achieved in Afghanistan through dialogue. A refugee is a tear shed faraway from his or her home,” he said, adding that no one wanted to leave their homes behind; Afghans had already suffered hardship and pain for too many years already.

“We strongly underline the importance of continuous efforts to bring peace and stability and massive investments in Afghanistan. A political action plan should be a substitute for conflict but, of course, the risk of further displacement is there, and we need to be prepared,” he said.

Afridi further stated: “UNHCR is here to support the government of Pakistan in case of an influx of Afghans. Let me make clear that Pakistan has already been hosting Afghan refugees for the last 40 years and Pakistan alone cannot uphold its international obligations and address the needs of more Afghans.”

He added that in case of an influx of refugees Pakistan would require burden sharing as well as solidarity by the international community as per Global Compact on Refugees.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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