KARACHI: The Afghan ambassador to Pakistan said on Saturday that his government was taking measures for the return of 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees from Pakistan in the shortest possible time.
“There is a three-way agreement between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and all three signatories agree on voluntary, dignified and gradual return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan,” Afghan Ambassador Janan Mosazai told a group of journalists at the Afghan Consulate General in Karachi.
He said that his country was ‘incomplete in its essence’ without the homecoming of its people, who had to leave the country decades ago because of security conditions.
He said the Afghan government had welcomed five million of its refugees from Pakistan and Iran since 2002, which he described as the ‘largest return of refugees to their homeland in history’.
“It [refugees’ arrival] has slowed down for some time, but this issue is our key priority on which we fully focus. The fabric of the Afghan society is not complete without our refugee brothers and sisters. We are improving our environment to encourage their return so that they see no uncertain future and no shortage of basic amenities,” said Ambassador Mosazai.
He said he had met Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah on Friday and thanked him for hosting a large number of Afghans with generosity for so many decades. “Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah gave us the assurance that his government in Sindh will treat Afghan refugees in a dignified and respectable manner until their full return home.”
He praised the leadership of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement with whom he said he held a detailed discussion on economy, extremism and terrorism.
He said at present 1.6m registered Afghan refugees were residing in Pakistan, most of whom lived in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan while their number in Sindh was 65,000.
He, however, was not sure about the number of unregistered Afghan refugees, which he guessed might be between 400,000 and one million.
‘We don’t discriminate between good and bad terrorist’
He said that the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan were focused on cooperation to forge a common narrative against extremism and terrorism.
“There is a close engagement between the two countries to counter this menace and we are hopeful that our efforts will bear fruit in the coming months,” he said.
He said his government was engaged in the war against terrorism and made no distinction between militants.
“Afghan forces began their fight against militants in Kunar province four weeks ago and so far they have killed 200 militants. That proves the government’s clear and consistent policy that we don’t discriminate between good and bad terrorist. A terrorist is a terrorist.”
“We want to enhance cooperation between the two governments to forge a multi-faceted effort against terrorism. People of Afghanistan are the biggest victims of terrorism, so we welcome any measures to eradicate this menace,” said Ambassador Mosazai.
He complained that the Pakistani media accorded sparse coverage to terrorism in Afghanistan unlike the Afghan media, which broadly highlighted violent events in Pakistan. “It is in our own advantage not to go for a split narrative. The narrative of the two countries — the biggest victims of terrorism — should be single and common to fight it out successfully.”
Ambassador Mosazai said he held extensive meetings with the business leaders in Pakistan and discussed wide-ranging issues relating to trade cooperation between the two neighbouring countries.
He said during the recent visit of President Ashraf Ghani to Pakistan substantive decisions were agreed upon in Islamabad.
He said Kabul would establish free economic zones in northern Afghanistan where Pakistani investors could set up their factories and industries.
He said his government desired full-scale increase in trade with Pakistan and hoped it could swell up from the current over $2 billion to $5bn.