Pakistan, Afghanistan agree to follow timeline for refugees return

Published November 8, 2018
Agreement was reached during the second meeting of the Refugee Working Group. — FO/File
Agreement was reached during the second meeting of the Refugee Working Group. — FO/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan on Wednesday agreed to follow the “decided timeline” for the repatriation of Afghan refugees.

The agreement was reached during the second meeting of the Refugee Working Group (WG) under the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Stability (APAPPS).

Safron Secretary Muhammad Aslam led the Pakistani side at the meeting whereas the Afghan delegation was headed by Deputy Minister for Afghan Ministry of Refugee Affairs Dr Alema.

Agreement reached during meeting of working group

The two sides discussed ways to enhance mutual cooperation for “a dignified, gradual, time-bound and complete return of Afghan nationals to their country”.

“It was decided to observe the agreed timelines and procedures for repatriation of various categories of these people to Afghanistan,” a Foreign Office statement said.

Although there is no publicly known timeline for repatriation, it is generally believed that Pakistan government wants the Afghan refugees having Afghan citizen cards to be repatriated by December 2018, whereas the registered refugees, who are believed to be 1.4 million, are expected to return to their country by June 2019. There is a third category of undocumented Afghan citizens living in Pakistan for which efforts are being made to register and repatriate them.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had in February pledged to ensure return of all Afghan refugees living in Pakistan to Afghanistan in “the next 24 months”.

The statement further said that a standard operating procedure (SOP) for streamlining the future working of the group among the two ministries concerned on a regular basis was also agreed.

The APAPPS working group (WG), it noted, “works on the principle of direct, regular contact among relevant ministries in both countries, under the umbrella of the politico-diplomatic WG, co-chaired by the two Ministries of Foreign Affairs”.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2018

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