PESHAWAR, May 15: The Afghan government has shown reservations over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s ultimatum to the unregistered Afghan nationals to leave the province by May 25 and sought intervention of federal government in the issue.
An Afghan diplomat in Peshawar said that Afghanistan Minister for Refugee Affairs Mohammad Jamaheer would soon come to Islamabad to discuss the issue with the Pakistani authorities.
Afghan Consul General Mohammad Ibrahimkhail said that expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Afghans would have serious implications on his country. The provincial government should review its decision, he said.
“The Afghan government wants return of all refugees to their country, but presently Afghanistan is not in a position to accommodate in bulk return of these people,” said the diplomat, adding that his government opposed that unilateral decision.
He said that Afghan delegation had already discussed the matter with the Pakistani officials in a two-day international conference, held in Geneva on May 2 about the future of Afghan refugees. Delegates from 40 countries attended the conference.
The home and tribal affairs department in the light of the decision of provincial cabinet had set one-month deadline for undocumented Afghan nationals to leave the province by May 25 or face legal action.
According to official estimates, around 800,000 Afghans have been residing in the province without legal documents. Only the provincial capital houses over 400,000 illegal Afghans. Officials said that presence of Afghans was main reason of increase in crime rate in the region as they had overburdened the infrastructure.
Mr Ibrahimkhail told Dawn that Afghan Ambassador Mohammad Umar Daudzai held meeting with Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions Engineer Shaukatullah Khan on Tuesday and asked him to direct the provincial government to withdraw its decision.
“The minister has assured our ambassador that he will ask the provincial government to vacate the deadline,” he said. He added that he had also taken up the issue with Awami National Party provincial president Senator Afrasiab Khattak and sought his help.
The diplomat said that during meeting with the minister for Safron it was decided that Afghan minister for refugee affairs would visit Islamabad to resolve the issue. The diplomat said that the Afghan minister would discuss concept paper about the refugees during his visit to Islamabad.
Mr Ibrahimkhail said that under the Geneva Convention the host country could not expel registered and unregistered refugees as far as living condition didn’t improve in the country of their origin.
On the other hand, the UNHCR seems to have distanced itself from the issue. UNHCR spokesman in Peshawar Taimur Ahmad Shah said that the UN agency would respect Pakistani law as far as the issue of unregistered Afghan nationals was concerned.
Peshawar District Coordination Officer Siraj Ahmad Khan, when contacted, said that Section 144 had been invoked, empowering police and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to take action against unregistered Afghans.
“Police and FIA have powers to arrest illegal Afghans under 14 Foreign Act,” he said, adding that those Afghans, who had valid Proof of Registration (PoR) cards, would not be disturbed.
The DCO said that home and tribal affairs department had designed computerised pro forma to register particulars of the illegal Afghans. Under the tripartite agreement, PoR card holders could stay in Pakistan till December 2012.