Despite govt claims of repatriation, number of Afghan DPs yet to be ascertained

Refugee registration in Pakistan. -Photo courtesy of UNHCR

ISLAMABAD: Expressing its dismay over the non-availability of details of the number of foreigners living in the country, the Senate sub-committee on interior directed authorities concerned on Thursday to compile the data within a month.

Convener of the committee Sardar Fateh Mohammad Hasni of PPP later told Dawn that directives had been issued to the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (Safron) to compile the report about the presence of registered and unregistered foreigners in the country, particularly the Afghan refugees.

The PPP senator, who held the meeting with officials concerned alone because of absence of other two members, regretted that the total number of Afghan refugees was not coming down in the country since 1979 despite claims by relevant authorities that a large number of refugees were repatriated every year.

Information Minister Pervez Rashid and MQM’s Tahir Mashhadi were other members of the sub-committee.

Mr Hasni said he had rejected the claim of authorities that at present there were 1.6 million registered and 1.5m unregistered Afghan refugees in the country and asked them to come up with the updated data.

Senate body wants compilation of foreigners’ data in one month

He said the nation was being told for over three decades that 3.5m Afghan refugees were living in the country, but surprisingly the number was still almost the same. On the other hand, he said, there were reports that a large number of Afghan refugees had obtained national identity cards and Pakistani passports in connivance with government officials in various ministries and departments.

He called upon the government to take strict action against those involved in the practice which was bringing bad name to the country.

An official handout later quoted Mr Hasni as saying during the meeting that if this practice of issuing fake identity cards and passports to the Afghan refugees continued in the same fashion, then very soon half of the population of Afghanistan would have obtained Pakistani nationality.

Similarly, he said, the National Alien Registration Authority (Nara) had informed Nadra that that there were 108,000 foreigners at present living in Karachi. He said he had asked authorities to compile a countrywide data as the statistics of just one city would not be sufficient to understand the real situation.

According to an official handout, the Chief Commissioner of Afghan Refugees told the meeting that there were 1.6m registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan and another over 1m non-registered refugees.

The committee was told that there were 39 refugees’ camps in the country — 28 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 10 in Balochistan and one in Punjab. However, only 37 per cent refugees were living in camps and the remaining 63pc had shifted to urban areas in the country.

The committee was also informed that 51pc of the registered Afghans were below the age of 18 years and a majority of them had born in Pakistan.

Similarly, 53pc of the refugees are living in areas near the border.

Nadra chairman Imtiaz Tajwar told the committee that it was practically impossible to block machine readable passports. However, he said, the passports were blocked with the permission of the competent authority after receiving such requests from the security agencies and National Accountability Bureau.

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