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    Second phase of refugees’ repatriation to start after Eidul Fitr vacations

    Second phase of refugees’ repatriation to start after Eidul Fitr vacations

    PESHAWAR (APP): Mohmandan Ali (65), an Afghan refugee living at Nowshera district for nearly four decades, is all set to left for his home country voluntarily in the second phase of repatriation which would be started soon after Eidul Fitre vacations.

    Associated with the vegetable and fruit business to support his family at Pabbi Tehsil of Nowshera district, Momandan along with nearly 3.5 million Afghan refugees were migrated to Pakistan after USSR Invasion in Afghanistan and have settled here with whom all facilities including hospitals, schools, transport, houses and hotels were shared by Pakistani brothers.

    “I had left everything at my war ravaged Afghanistan after the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) Army invaded Kabul on December 25, 1979 and settled at Pabbi tehsil of Nowshera district with my family,” said Mohmandan, expressing gratitude of Pakistani brothers and sisters for sharing hospitals, schools, colleges, roads and provide free houses to them for stay.

    Momandan, who is residing at Pabbi after obtaining Afghan Citizen Cards (ACC) vowed to return to his home city Kabul after Eidul Fitr, was overwhelmed by the long hospitality and friendship by the people of Pakistan during his 44 years longest stay here in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

    Like Momandan, nearly one million Afghan ACC holders would be repatriated in the second phase of a repatriation drive to Afghanistan that would formally launch on April 15 this month.

    Rifaqat Khan, the spokesman of KP Home Department said that all arrangements were finalized for the second phase of the repatriation drive starting from April 15 this month in all four provinces of Pakistan besides AJK and Gilgit Baltistan. 

    “In this special drive, nearly one million ACC holders would be repatriated and deported. “We are encouraging voluntary repatriation. 

    However, those refugees who did not possess legal documents including visas and PORs (proof of registration) and stayed illegally would be held and deported under 14 foreign act.”

    He said the mapping process of ACC holders and resurvey for their whereabouts were almost completed by the Deputy Commissioners and Police and a grand repatriation drive would start soon after Eidul Fitr vacations. He expressed the hope to complete the entire mapping and resurvey process before Eidul Fitre.

    As per initial reports, he said most of ACC holders were living in Peshawar and Khyber districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and crackdown would be started against those who refused to obey the government orders.

     Rifaqat said transit points at Peshawar with staying capacity of 2000 and Landi Kotal Khyber with accommodation capacity of 1500 were made operational where ACC holders would be gathered before onward transportation to Afghanistan via Torkham border. 

    He said that free transport, accommodation and meals would be provided to all those refugees willing to repatriate voluntarily.

    The UNHCR data has revealed that about 2.18 million documented Afghan refugees were living in Pakistan including 1.3 million refugees holding Proof of Registration (PoR) cards as per the census carried out in 2006-07 and 8,80,000 refugees on ACCs granted following a registration drive in 2017.

    “Refugees’ repatriation drive is purely in line with international and Pakistani laws,” said Professor Dr Ejaz Khan, former Chairman, International Relations Department, University of Peshawar while talking to APP.

    He said Pakistan like other sovereign countries cannot allow illegal stay of foreigners or entry of the undocumented nationals and illegal Afghans have to leave for their country. 

    Dr Ejaz claimed that over four million afghans migrated to Pakistan from the war ravaged country of Afghanistan since the 1979 USSR Invasion who were warmly welcomed by the Pakistani brothers.

    He said that about 3.5 million afghans’ were migrated to Pakistan and nearly two million to Iran after USSR army landed Kabul in 1979 while nearly five million afghans came to Pakistan via Torkham border after civil war broke out in Afghanistan after withdrawal of USSR troops in 1989 and Taliban took over of Kabul in 1994.

    Dr Ejaz Khan said former Afghan President Hamid Karzai as of 2012 who stayed in Pakistan as humanitarian gesture also returned to his home country after the fall of Taliban reign by Northern Alliance backed by US and Western countries in 202 and ruled there.

    He said following the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021 after US chaotic withdrawal of troops, which led to the collapse of the neighboring republic, another Afghans influx ranging between 600,000 and 800,000 came to Pakistan for shelter.

    Syed Akhtar Ali Shah, former IGP KP said that documentation of illegal foreign nationals were inevitable for the security of citizens of Pakistan. 

    He said that unfortunately, despite frequent opportunities to repatriate voluntarily, and multiple government attempts to register those refugees who remain undocumented, a significant number has persistently refused to formalize their status, choosing instead to stay in the shadows, thus leaving with Pakistan with no other option but to launch grand repatriation drive that proved successful.

    Asked about progress of the first phase of repatriation drive stared by the then caretaker Government on November 1, 2023, Rifaqat said that voluntarily repatriation of undocumented refugees including afghans still continued via Torkham, Kharlachi and Angora adda border points of KP.

    From September 17, 2023 to April 2, 2024, he said that 305,335 undocumented foreigners were voluntarily returned and 6,732 were deported to Afghanistan via KP border points.

    The Commissionerate for refugees refugees Peshawar spokesman told the news agency that legal afghan refugees were being facilitated in Pakistan. 

    He said the provincial task force has recently endorsed 38 projects worth Rs960 million under Refugees Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) program for the year 2024-25 for fostering social cohesion between documented refugees and host communities.

    He said the RAHA program was implemented in 10 refugees affected districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the number of documented refugees was more compare to others to improve social services and provide relief to people.

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