ISLAMABAD: The government informed the National Assembly on Wednesday that it planned to complete repatriation of Afghan refugees by December 2015. In reply to a supplementary question, Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch said the new deadline to send the refugees back home was fixed at December 2015. However, he was quick to add that since the repatriation was on a voluntary basis, it could not be said with certainty whether or not the process would be completed by the new deadline. He said the country was bearing the burden of 1.63 million Afghan refugees, 1.4m among them unregistered.To the question how the government would ensure that those sent back did not return, the minister said they were being repatriated along with their families. But he did not rule out the possibility of individuals sneaking back, saying Afghanistan and Pakistan shared a long porous border.
He refused to accept Muttahida Qaumi Movement MNA Abdul Rashid Godil’s contention that more than 1m Afghan nationals were doing business in Karachi.
Under an agreement between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the repatriation was done on the voluntary basis, he said. Previous deadline set by the agreement was Dec 31, 2012 which had been extended till approval by the cabinet of the new national policy for Afghan refugees (July 2013 to Dec 2015).
Voluntarism and gradualism were guiding principles embedded in the agreement, he said, adding that since 2002 more than 3.8m refugees had been repatriated under this policy.
He said that in order to encourage the Afghans to return, the repatriation package of $100 per returnee had been enhanced to $150 with free transportation.