ISLAMABAD, May 2: More than three million Afghans are still living in Pakistan, out of over five million who had escaped the Soviet occupation of their war-torn homeland in the 1980s, says a report of a recently-conducted countrywide census released by the government on Monday.
Secretary Ministry for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Sajid Hussain Chattha, Chief Census Commissioner Najam Hassan and Guenet Guebre-Christos, representative of the UNHCR in Pakistan, told a news conference here on Monday that the census carried out between late February and early March this year counted a total of 3,047,225 Afghans who had arrived after December 1, 1979.
The conference was informed that the census carried out by the government, with technical and financial assistance from the UNHCR, was the first exercise ever undertaken to count the number of Afghans in Pakistan.
Previous figures of Afghans who had arrived since the Soviet invasion had always been estimates.
The UNHCR said it would accept the figures determined in the government exercise. It was also agreed by the government of Pakistan that not all Afghans in the country would be of concern to the UN refugee agency.
The census, which was carried out in all areas of Pakistan, found 1,861,412 Afghans living in the North-West Frontier Province, 783,545 in Balochistan, 136,780 in Sindh, 207,754 in Punjab, 44,637 in Islamabad and 13,097 in Azad Kashmir or the Northern Areas.
A more detailed report on the data gathered by 3,000 census workers was being prepared and would be available by the end of May. This would include the precise place of residence, sources of livelihood, place of origin in Afghanistan, intention to return this year and other information.
“The data will be vital as the government of Pakistan and UNHCR will collaborate to work out ways to manage the Afghan population which might remain in Pakistan after the current Tripartite Agreement expires,” said Ms Guebre-Christos, head of the UNHCR in Pakistan.
The meeting was informed that the voluntary repatriation programme was conducted under a Tripartite Agreement between the UNHCR, Pakistan and Afghanistan.