ISLAMABAD: The PTI-led government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assured Afghanistan’s ambassador to Islamabad on Saturday that Afghan refugees, who have been living in the province for decades now, would not be harassed, as both sides agreed to constitute a joint forum which would regularly meet to address issues between the two sides.
Afghan envoy Janan Mosazai met the PTI chief and other senior leaders at Imran Khan’s Bani Gala residence in rain-soaked Islamabad where weighty matters such as the registration and repatriation of the 1.5 million Afghan refugees currently living in KP came under discussion.
“The two sides are virtually tied to each other, be it economic or cultural ties, making it essential for us to sit together and work out shared plans that would benefit both sides,” PTI General Secretary Jahangir Tareen told Dawn.
Joint forum to be constituted in order to redress grievances
Explaining the future modus operandi for regular contact between both sides, the PTI leader said the proposed forum would include the Afghan consul general in Peshawar and a designated officer from the KP government as its key members.
Another objective of Saturday’s meeting was to defuse the tension that has been simmering since the launch of the National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism in Pakistan that saw law-enforcement agencies scrutinising the identities of Afghan refugees across the country, Mr Tareen said. “During the meeting, the PTI chief assured the Afghan ambassador of zero harassment of our Afghan brethren, who we have hosted for decades.”
The communiqué issued after the meeting said the Afghan envoy requested the KP government to deal with Afghan refugees `sensitively’. It said the meeting reviewed the status of Afghan refugees in the province and focused on improving trade ties between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Afghanistan.
The meeting was convened at the request of Mr Mosazai and attended by KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak as well as the KP chief secretary, home secretary and inspector general of police.
In his remarks during the meeting, the PTI chairman underlined the significance of close cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan and said that an enduring partnership between Afghanistan and the KP government was essential for peace and development in the region.
He said special focus on inter-governmental links; political engagements, security and counter-terrorism cooperation, and deeper trade and economic ties would help both governments to combat the challenges of poverty, ignorance and lawlessness within their domains.
The Afghan ambassador stressed that the plight of Afghan refugees needed to be addressed by more concerted efforts from the KP government and requested that law-enforcement agencies adopt a softer approach towards Afghan refugees. However, he endorsed the idea of taking action against those Afghans who violated the law.
The Afghan envoy formally extended an invitation to the KP chief minister to visit Afghanistan. The invitation was accepted by the chief minister, who is expected to visit Kabul in March.
Published in Dawn February 8th , 2015