Abdul Ghaffar Shinwari, an Afghan elder, speaks to mediapersons at Peshawar Press Club on Monday. — White Star
Abdul Ghaffar Shinwari, an Afghan elder, speaks to mediapersons at Peshawar Press Club on Monday. — White Star

PESHAWAR: Rejecting the one-month deadline set by the federal government for their return, the undocumented Afghan refugees have asked Pakistan not to expel them until the expiry of an old agreement, which allows them to stay in the country by the end of 2018.

Afghan Refugees Executive Council chief Abdul Ghaffar Shinwari told a news conference at the Peshawar Press Club that Pakistan should allow Afghan refugees to stay on its soil and if that didn’t happen, they would move the court of law against the violation of an old agreement.

“We have copies of an agreement, which was signed by all the relevant stakeholders, allowing refugees to stay until the end of the current year,” he said.

Mr Shinwari, who was flanked by heads of various camps across the country, said the refugees had begun returning to Afghanistan following a decision of Pakistan but their stay was again extended.

Warn they will move court against violation of ‘repatriation accord’

He said the people would not return unless Pakistan promised protection of their properties, recovery of assets and loans from the people.

The Afghan Refugees Executive Council chief said Afghan refugees had a vast business valuing billions of rupees in the country and therefore, they were unable to leave Pakistan as their return would cost them dear.

He said the Pakistani government had asked unregistered Afghan refugees to wind up their businesses and return within the next one month, which had created serious unrest among them.

Mr Shinwari said it was quite difficult to wrap up businesses and investment of billions of rupees within a period of just one month.

He said Afghan businessmen regularly paid taxes to the Pakistani government and had given jobs to the locals and therefore, Pakistani authorities should make a proper mechanism and legislation to keep Afghans from heavy losses.

Accompanied by Malik Zar Badshah, Malik Zerahullah, Hibaat Shah, Malik Umar and other council members, Mr Shinwari complained that the police had begun teasing Afghans and forced them to shut workplaces in parts of the province.

He said Afghan refugees were willing to return but in a dignified manner.

“We praise Pakistani government for hosting us for several decades but we should not be targeted due to the ongoing disturbances between the two countries,” he said.

The council chief urged Pakistani and Afghan governments and UNHCR to fully abide by the agreement on voluntarily return of Afghan refugees from the country.

Afghan elder Zar Badshah Shah said the Pakistani government’s fresh deadline for the Afghan refugees’ repatriation was the result of US President Donald Trump’s statement against Pakistan.

“Under an agreement, Afghan refugees are allowed to stay in Pakistan until December 2018,” he said, adding that the fresh return deadline would adversely affect bilateral business and trade.

He alleged that the provincial didn’t recognise Afghan Refugee Cards any longer.

The elder asked the chief minister and police chief to act against the police officials for harassing Afghans refugees.

Elder Abdul Ghaffar warned that if the government didn’t honour the voluntary repatriation agreement, the refugees would move the court of law for its violation.

Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2018