Afghan crisis: Not a single person granted refugee status till now, says Sheikh Rashid

Published August 30, 2021
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid addresses a press conference in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid addresses a press conference in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said on Monday that Pakistan had not granted refugee status to a single person from Afghanistan till now, amid the evacuation of foreigners and Afghans following the Taliban takeover of Kabul.

Speaking on a possible refugee influx during a press conference in Islamabad, Rashid said despite one being expected, "not one person has been granted refugee status till now [...] not one refugee has been given permission [...] Pakistan has not taken one person as a Muhajir till now."

Referring to Thursday's suicide attack outside Kabul's airport that killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 US service members, he said: "We expected that a flood [of refugees] can come [...] but it didn't occur".

The interior minister said Pakistan was a "responsible country" that would fulfil its duty of national security and its international expectations, adding that it had "made history" in facilitating the Afghan peace process.

Last month, National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf had said that arrangements should be made to keep displaced Afghans inside their country instead of pushing them into Pakistan, adding that "Pakistan does not have the capacity to take more refugees.”

Similarly, the interior minister had said in July that Pakistan would not allow refugees and would prohibit their entry. Instead, they would be contained in camps and settlements along the border following Iran's model.

Responding to a question in today's presser on Pakistanis repatriated from Afghanistan, Rashid said: "All Pakistanis have been evacuated. Between 30 to 40 people do not want to come because they married over there, have families and children and said they are happy there."

Rashid also provided updates on Pakistan's facilitation of evacuees from Afghanistan, saying 1,627 people had been flown in, while another 2,100 had been granted on-arrival visas at the Torkham border.

He said arrangements had been made to host 3,000 people in Islamabad and transit visas of 21-30 days would be provided to individuals of any nationality.

The interior minister explained that Pakistan was not bearing any expense for the evacuation process, with the organisations sponsoring the evacuees responsible for their costs, adding that airplanes parked at the country's airports were also paying parking fees.

Similarly, he said the hotel accommodations being provided to evacuees awaiting transit was also not free of cost.

Rashid also reiterated that the Taliban had reassured the government that they would not allow Afghanistan to be used for terrorist activities against Pakistan, adding that all the while the army was still present and defending the borders.

PDM long march

Responding to the Pakistan Democratic Movement's announcement of a march to Islamabad, he said they were welcome to do so, adding that they would be treated in accordance with the law and the Constitution.

He criticised the opposition for exhibiting irresponsibility and not understanding the political environment while Pakistan was becoming the centre of international politics. The interior minister questioned what the opposition hoped to achieve with its march and said it would be "trapped" and "regret" it.

Instead, Rashid advised the opposition to "prepare for the election".

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