Pakistan committed to Afghan peace for stability, refugees’ return: PM

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ISLAMABAD, Feb 17 (APP):Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday said, with hosting of Afghan refugees for four decades, Pakistan had a sincere resolve towards sustainable peace in the conflict-hit country and also to ensure smooth repatriation of Afghans.

“People of Afghanistan deserve peace and we will continue to facilitate the negotiation process by taking it in right direction,” the prime minister said in his address at the Refugee Summit, marking 40 years of hosting Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

The high-profile event was attended by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, diplomats, representatives of international and members of foreign media.

Imran Khan said conflict in Afghanistan was clearly not in the interest of Pakistan and stressed that continuous efforts were made by Pakistan to restore peace in Afghanistan.

He mentioned that Pakistan hosted the Afghan refugees since 1979 and had become the second largest refugee hosting nation with 2.7 million people.

He said despite economic challenges, Pakistan throughout provided facilities related to education, vocational training and also social inclusion of Afghans.

The prime minister categorically dismissed the statement of Afghan Second Vice President Sarwar Danesh, who on the occasion, accused Pakistan of ‘harbouring terrorists in refugee camps responsible for instability in Afghanistan’.

“There are no safe havens [of terrorists] in Pakistan,” Imran Khan said, adding that such scenario could have a possibility soon after 9/11 as militants fled Afghanistan.

However, he pointed out that keeping a complete check of refugee camps with over 500,000 people, could be difficult for any government.

He said Pakistan had started border fencing to keep a vigil on the situation, stressing that “it should be rest assured that instability in Afghanistan is not in Pakistan’s interest.”

Prime Minister Imran Khan said the entire leadership in Pakistan, including civilian and military, was on the same page for its commitment to peace in Afghanistan.

He said ensuring connectivity between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia was future of the region’s development and prosperity that required commitment by all stakeholders.
Imran Khan mentioned the presence of U.S. Special Representative on Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad on the occasion, terming it a testament of goodwill for peace in Afghanistan.

He said the people of Afghanistan suffered the most in recent history and stressed that it was responsibility of the world to share the burden with Pakistan.

He said the ‘pleasant side’ of Afghan refugees in Pakistan was rearing of a professional cricket team of Afghanistan of its own, who recently defeated the under-19 Pakistani cricket team.

Imran Khan said Pakistan was humbled to follow the Islamic traditions of meting out good treatment to migrants and therefore extended best possible care to Afghan refugees.

He drew the attention of audience towards blatant human rights violations in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir where minorities particularly Muslims, were marginalized.

He said the racist ideology of incumbent Indian government had severe implications and urged upon the United Nations to take notice of the situation.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Pakistan’s resilience and exceptional generosity made it the second largest refugee-hosting country in the world.

He quoted a verse from Surah Taubah of the Holy Quran, saying: “And if any one of the polytheists seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he may hear the words of Allah . Then deliver him to his place of safety.”

He commended the steps taken by Pakistan for Afghan refugees including biometrics registration and providing access to education despite its own several challenges.

He said the fact must be recognized that the international support to Pakistan for refugees was less as compared to the country’s own contribution.

Guterres said it was the time for international community to come up and join the way towards peace in Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan and its people cannot be abandoned and it is the time for world to act,” he said, adding peace efforts and negotiations could pave the way for humanitarian development.

He stressed that durable solution to refugee problem was voluntary repatriation and said work on the region-specific framework in this regard, was in progress.

Afghanistan’s Second Vice President stressed the Afghan government fully supported negotiations between the United States and Taliban for durable peace, however emphasized on the importance of direct talks with the Afghan government as well.

He said unfortunately, the constitutional political setup in Afghanistan after 2001, faced resistance from some anti-Afghan groups.

He called for a joint programme and mechanism with an oversight of the United Nations to
facilitate repatriation of Afghan refugees through a planned process in a voluntary and
gradual manner.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Afghan displacement could only be
resolved through peace.

He acknowledged that Pakistan’s generosity to Afghan refugees for four decades, had a cost in shape of impact on local economy, infrastructure, security and environment.

He commended Pakistan for allowing the Afghan refugees to open bank accounts and urged
upon the donors for further development of resources to address the problems of a large
number of refugees.

He recalled that as the UNHCR representative in Afghanistan, almost 20 years ago, he was
personally part of a collective extraordinary effort to support 3 million Afghans return home
after years of exile.

Grandi said even today, Pakistan and Iran together continued to host 90 per cent of registered Afghan refugees globally – some 2.4 million people, and welcomed the constructive dialogue between the governments of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, in the framework of the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees, launched together with UNHCR in 2012.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said nearly three generations of Afghan refugees
were sheltered in Pakistan for 40 years.

He said no state could tackle the problem of refugees alone and called upon the international community to join hands with Pakistan for a dignified return of Afghan refugees.

He said a joint global action was needed to share the burden of refugees with reinforced
existing partnerships and enhanced social and economic participation.

Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Sahibzada Mehboob Sultan said the
conference jointly organized by Government of Pakistan and UNHCR was a testimony to
the commitment of both for an honourable return of Afghan refugees to their homeland.