PESHAWAR: The federal government has yet to start registering undocumented Afghan nationals as outlined in the 20-point National Action Plan, devised to deal with terrorism in the aftermath of Army Public School tragedy.
Over one million unregistered Afghan nationals, who were supposed to be registered in the fulfillment of the plan, still stay undocumented while two years extension in the stay of registered refugees is also on the card.
The exercise to register the undocumented Afghans has delayed twice. The ministry of states and frontier regions (Safron) had first fixed July 25 to kick start the registration process but later deferred the drive to August 25.
The ministry has released Rs170 million to National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) to undertake countrywide documentation process of the Afghans for which it has planned to set up 22 centres in the four provinces and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Estimated cost of the plan has been billed at Rs500 million.
Minister says KP is not in favour of extending stay of Afghans
Safron Secretary Pir Bakhsh Jamali told Dawn on Thursday that interior ministry had some observations over the process that caused the delay. Like registered refugees, the government would not issue Proof of Registration cards to undocumented Afghans, he added.
Officials said that approximately one million Afghans were residing in the country without legal documents. Registration of undocumented Afghan nationals was included in the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s 20 points NAP that was announced on December 25, 2014.
“Formulation of a comprehensive policy to deal with the issue of Afghan refugees, beginning with registration of all refugees,” said 19th point of NAP, but federal and provincial governments have yet to work out feasible solution to the issue except snap action by the police and other law enforcement agencies.
Majority of these unregistered Afghans have been living in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The government planned to obtain accurate data of Afghan nationals through registration. Officials said that around 13,000 unregistered Afghans had been arrested in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after enforcement of NAP and cases were registered against 6,000 Afghans.
As documentation of unregistered Afghans hanged in the balance, extension in the stay of refugees was also under consideration, sources said. The Afghan government had recently moved a proposal in the consultative meeting of tripartite commission held in Kabul last week, seeking two years extension in the stay of refugees.
Mr Jamali confirmed that Afghan government had formally requested to extend stay of refugees by December 2017. He said that the proposal was handed over to Minister for Safron retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch, who had represented Pakistan in the tripartite commission meeting.
“The plea of Afghan government was that it could not absorb load of refugees and requested federal minister to prolong stay of PoR card holders till December 2017,” Mr Jamali said.
The commission comprises Pakistan, Afghanistan and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Safron would table request of the Afghan government in the cabinet meeting. Legal stay of 1.6 million refugees would end by December next.
Officials said that the delegation of federal government attended tripartite commission meeting in Kabul without taking Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and other stakeholders into confidence though 70 per cent of the Afghan refugees were staying in that province.
“Neither provincial home department nor other agencies dealing with the refugees have been consulted,” said an official, adding that federal government was supposed to take input from the provincial government about refugees.
He said that Pakistan delegation would proceed to Geneva in first week of September to discuss matters related to the refugees. Stay of registered refugees had been extended since 2009.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani said that provincial government had not been taken on board before sending delegation to Kabul. The matter would be taken up with the centre if stay was granted, he added. He said that it was inappropriate to ignore Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which had been suffering socially and economically owing to the presence of Afghans.
“Federal government should have taken Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on board,” said Mr Ghani, adding that provincial government was not in favour of any extension of stay to refugees. He said that provincial government had offered central government to bear cost of registration of undocumented Afghans and shift them to camps, but no action was taken.
Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2015