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Afghan Refugee living in Pakistan is a Problem.

THE displacement of Afghans from their homeland has been described as the world’s longestrunning refugee crisis, now entering its fourth decade. And due to a variety of reasons, Pakistan
has borne the brunt of the crisis. Last week, the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee
was told that there are around one million Afghans living in Pakistan illegally.
This is in addition to 1.7 million registered refugees. The PAC was informed that the Ministry of
States and Frontier Regions (Safron) — which deals with refugees — was facing a paucity of
funds, as millions of dollars promised by international donors had been held back. Yet there was
also stinging criticism that funds meant for refugees were spent on officials’ junkets and air
conditioners. Some parliamentarians were quite critical of the refugees, describing them as a
‘burden’. Considering the pressure put on the system by such a large number of people, the
Afghans are an easy target for criticism. While the situation in Afghanistan may not be conducive
for the refugees’ return due to militant violence and a weak economy, Pakistan’s problems,
including a creaking infrastructure unable to cater to a large population, are also considerable.
Some officials have voiced support for evicting the Afghan refugees. However, we feel
repatriation should be voluntary. The state needs to focus on registering all undocumented
Afghans so that the refugee issue can be properly managed, as well as for security reasons. As
for the shortage of funds, while the international community needs to deliver on its promises as
the ‘problem’ is not Pakistan’s alone, Safron must also plug the leaks. The ultimate solution to the
Afghan refugee question is a peaceful, prosperous Afghanistan. Until that seemingly distant goal
is realised, the international community needs to continue to help Pakistan repatriate Afghan
refugees wanting to go back and care for the ones still residing in this country.