Seeking Solutions and Managing Afghan Refugees in Pakistan
One day national seminar on ‘Seeking Solutions and Managing Afghan Refugees in Pakistan’ was held at National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad on 26th April 2016. A large number of participants attended the proceedings. The seminar aimed at highlighting the importance of developing a practical set of policies regarding lasting solutions for the management of Afghan refugees in Pakistan and initiated a national dialogue for seeking efficacious management of the refugees’ issue. During the seminar, speakers stressed upon the Government of Pakistan to adopt a comprehensive national policy on the management of Afghans in the country. Pakistan has been hosting the world’s largest protracted refugee population since 1979. Thirty-six-years later, Afghan refugees still constitute the second largest refugee population after that of Syrians.
Eminent speakers, from all across the country, holding extensive experience and expertise, attended the seminar. Seminar proceedings were deliberated by Dr. Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, Ambassador and Special Envoy of Afghanistan to Pakistan; Dr. Imran Zaib, Chief Commissioner Afghan Refugees; Ahmer Bilal Soofi, International Law expert; Dr. Sarfaraz Khan, Director Area Study Center, Peshawar; Air Vice Marshal Shahzad Chaudhry (Retd); Mr. Abdul Hameed Jalili, and Rustam Shah Mohmand, former Ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan. In his opening remarks, Director General, ISSRA, Maj. Gen. Noel Israel Khokhar noted that Pakistan has significantly contributed to “global public good,” including investment in human capital of Afghan refugees; thereby, building their resilience and promoting regional stability with benefits for all. International community must come forward to support this endeavour through re-invigorated assistance in the spirit of international responsibility-sharing
Lt. Gen. (Retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch, Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) was the chief guest in the opening session of the seminar. He noted that the solution for the Afghan issue lies within Afghanistan. However, he acknowledged that conditions in parts of Afghanistan may not be conducive for many Afghans to return. The Minister informed that a draft policy for the repatriation and management of Afghan refugees beyond June 2016 is under consideration by the federal cabinet.
UNHCR Representative in Pakistan, Indrika Ratwatte, highlighted the important contribution that Pakistan’s unwavering generosity continues to make through investment in the human capital and resilience of generations of Afghans and to the global refugee cause. Mr. Ratwatte emphasized that the speedy adoption of the draft policy by the federal cabinet would help to ensure predictability for Afghan refugees and also boost the joint UNHCR and Government of Pakistan’s efforts to mobilize resources for solutions and assistance to Afghan refugees and their host communities.
In the closing session, Syed Tariq Fatemi, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, highlighted that there is a need to enhance this noble investment in empowering the youth which will yield tremendous benefits in terms of building the future human capital of Afghanistan, and assist efforts to stabilize the populations, mitigate potential onward movements to Europe and avoid situations where disenchanted youth resorts to negative coping strategies. If empowered, young people become agents of stability and positive change; they have the potential to become the best “Ambassadors of Pakistan” and to nurture and fortify the brotherly relations between the two nations, on their return to Afghanistan. If marginalized and neglected, they may become agents of instability.