ISLAMABAD: Majority of policy analysts at a roundtable held at Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) rejected the idea of forceful repatriation of millions of Afghan refugees from Pakistan, calling it unwise and harmful for the national interest.
It may be mentioned that as a consequence of deteriorating relations with the Kabul regime and a reaction to the pressurising tactics of Washington, the Pakistani policymakers have decided not to extend the POR cards of Afghan refugees beyond January 31, and send them back to their home country.
IPS Director General Khalid Rehman was of the opinion that it is simply not possible to send back 2.4 million registered, and an unknown number of unregistered refugees currently residing in the country without a comprehensive plan and a research-backed policy. He said that there were two views about the presence of Afghan refugees in Pakistan: one considering them an asset and the other a liability.
However, the issue must not be seen in black and white as there were many grey areas in it with several shades, Khalid said. He added that decisions should not be based on perceptions and reactions as a lot of research and policy dialogues are needed to address this issue of critical national and regional importance.
Former ISI chief General (retd) Asad Durrani said that it was not in the interest of Pakistan to repatriate millions of Afghans forcefully and ruin the investment of four decades. Two generations of refugees have been born here and a majority of their youth have hardly seen their native areas, he added.
There may be fifth columnists among the refugees but it is better that they stay here and are tracked instead of being sent back to do whatever they want against Pakistan with impunity, Durrani suggested.
Jumma Khan Sufi, the author of bestseller Fareb-e-Na-Tamam and a former Pashtun nationalist leader who has witnessed and documented the role of the Afghan government in fomenting terror in Pakistan in the 1970s, rejected the approach of viewing Afghan refugees as asset or liability.
He said that most of the anti-Pakistan government officials of Afghanistan have lived here as refugees and they can never respect the sovereignty and reality of Pakistan due to the superiority complex embedded in the historic national narrative of Afghans. He viewed the Afghan refugees’ issue as a humanitarian one that should be addressed on the same grounds.
Terming forceful repatriation of all Afghan refugees an illusion, Intelligence and International Security Studies at South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) University Director Brig (retd) Ishaq Ahmed called for categorisation of Afghan refugees and offering of Pakistani nationality or business, work and student visas to the eligible among them against certain criteria.
Ambassador (retd) Tajammul Altaf, Ambassador (retd) Ibrar Hussain, Professor Dr Adnan Sarwar, Dr Shehryar Khan, Ambassador (retd) Ayaz Wazir, Brigadier (retd) Said Nazeer Mohmand, Sarwat Sultana, Waqar-un-Nisa, and an Afghan refugee PhD scholar Zakir Hussain also shared similar views among majority of other participants on the occasion.