QUETTA: The National Database and Registration Authority launched on Tuesday a countywide project for renewal of Proof of Registration (PoR) cards to 1.6 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.
Over 260,000 refugees living in Balochistan will be required to get their cards renewed under the project.
“Over 260,000 registered afghan refugees living in Balochistan will get these cards and these will be valid till Dec 2015,” Nadra officials told journalists at a ceremony held for renewal of the cards.
Renewed PoR cards will be issue across the country through 34 centres set up by the government. In the first phase the cards will be issued from six centres set up in Quetta, Rawalpindi, Haripur, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar. More centres will then be open in other cities in the coming months.
The existing registration cards expired on Dec 2012 and the UN refugee agency and other authorities concerned had requested the government of Pakistan to extend the validity of the cards.
The federal cabinet in its July 2013 meeting decided to extend the validity of the cards in accordance with the Tripartite Commission Agreement.
The new PoR cards will be valid till Dec 31 2015.Around 3.8 million Afghans have returned to their country under the voluntary return programme launched in 2002. Returnees form a quarter of the total current population of Afghanistan, while 1.6 million registered refugees are still living in Pakistan.
The card renewal process will be carried out in two phases. In the first phase, from February till the end of June 2014, all PoR cards expired in Dec 2012 will be replaced by new PoR cards.
In the second phase starting from July till the end of 2014, Nadra will register and issue PoR cards to some 150,000 children born to registered parents over the past five years, and more than 330,000 Afghan children below the age of 18 will receive birth certificates from across the country.
“Pakistan will continue extending help and cooperation to Afghan refugees till the end of 2015,” Arbab Talib, Deputy Director of Afghan Refugee Organisation, Balochistan, said. “Afghan refugees are our brothers and they have been enjoying our hospitality for the past four decades.”
He said the government was keen on providing support to the UNHCR and the government of Afghanistan in facilitating the voluntary return of refugees to their country.
The officer in-charge of UNHCR sub-office, Quetta, Mr Tesfaye Bekele, expressed the hope that the renewal of the PoR cards would better protect Afghan refugees and halt reported instances of harassment faced by the refugees.
The Director General of Nadra, retired Brig Javed Lodhi, Afghan Consul General Waheedullah Mehmand and representatives of the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation also attended the ceremony.