- Interior Minister Nisar says a national policy will ‘soon’ be devised to regulate Afghan refugees’ stay
- Mahmood Khan Achakzai says Afghan newspapers misquoted him as saying KP belongs to Afghans; PkMAP chief mauled on social media after the Afghan newspaper report is published
Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Thursday said Afghan refugees issue is quite serious and soon a national policy will be conceived to regulate their stay in Pakistan.
Nisar’s remarks come in the backdrop of increasing anti-refugee rhetoric, especially from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan governments.
But while the two governments are giving increasingly harsher warnings to Afghan refugees and asking them to leave, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai drew ire on Thursday after an Afghan newspaper quoted him as saying that the Afghan refugees can live in the province without fear as the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province “belongs to Afghans”.
Achakzai later clarified that the Afghan newspaper had incorrectly quoted him as saying that Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province belongs to Afghans.
The interior minister, meanwhile, said that successive governments have braced the burden of hundreds of thousands of refugees in Pakistan but now time has come to prepare a comprehensive national policy on the matter.
In an informal talk with media personnel at an iftar dinner, Nisar said a meeting has been planned on the return of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif which will decide upon which principles the Afghan refugees can stay in Pakistan.
Replying to a question, he said Pakistan, as a good gesture, had permitted Afghan refugees in the country but unfortunately the rules and regulations were not followed after they were allowed to stay.
He said the first principle was that the international community would help and support Pakistan while the other was that no refugee would be allowed to purchase property in Pakistan.
Nisar said that under the re-verification drive of Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs), the government has announced that any foreigner/refugee who voluntarily returns the illegally obtained CNIC within two months will be awarded a refugee status but if the fake card holder is found during the drive he/she will be deported or sent to jail.
Answering a question about the law and order situation in Karachi, Interior Minister Nisar said that as per law and constitution, the chief minister is the captain of the operation and has all the authority while other departments are playing a supporting role.
He went on to say that operation in the mega city has helped significantly decrease the number of incidents of extortion, terrorism, target killing and kidnapping for ransom. However, he said, an increase has been witnessed in the number of street crimes.
Replying to another question, the minister said those who were raising a hue and cry over the Panama Leaks are also involved in purchasing properties abroad.
Meanwhile, Achakzai was quoted by the Afghan daily as saying that the KP belongs to Afghans and they should not have to face ‘fear and irritation’ while living in their ‘own land’.
Achakzai’s denial did not come until late at night almost a full day after the report was published in the Afghan newspaper. Meanwhile, many Pakistanis on social media expressed outrage at the PkMAP chief for what they considered an anti-Pakistan statement.
The interview, published in Afghanistan Times but later picked up by local media, had quoted Achakzai as saying, “If Afghans are harassed in other parts of Pakistan, they should come here to the Pakhtunkhwa province, where no one can ask them for refugee cards because it also belongs to them.”
Speaking to a private TV channel, however, the PkMAP leader clarified that he had been misquoted by the Afghan media.
Achakzai said that he had only stated that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was historically a part of Afghanistan. However, he claimed had never said that the province belonged to Afghans, as quoted by the Afghan daily.
“Kabul and Islamabad should exercise extreme caution to resolve Torkham crossing conflict,” Achakzai was quoted by the Afghan daily as saying. “Otherwise, they should leave the issue to the US and China, and they would resolve it within two weeks.”
When asked if Pakistani Pashtuns were unhappy over Pakistan’s decision to build gates at the Afghan border, the PkMAP leader was quoted as saying that Torkham and forced repatriation of Afghan refugees are two separate issues and Pashtuns are concerned about the matters of Afghan refugees.
Achakzai’s remarks came as reports have been circulating in media about the harassment and arrests of Afghan refugees in KP, Balochistan and other parts of the country.
MINISTER SAYS AFGHANS WILL LEAVE ‘COME WHAT MAY’:
The Balochistan government has particularly been vocal about the need to repatriate Afghan refugees back to their country which has raised fears that the refugees may face more persecution.
Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions (Safron) Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch said on Thursday that Afghan refugees will have to leave Pakistan “come what may”.
“Pakistan cannot host Afghan refugees anymore,” the federal minister said.
Qadir Baloch said Afghan refugees have occupied over one million jobs in Pakistan, thus creating financial problems for the locals.
“It is difficult for the locals in various cities to find jobs as over one million Afghan refugees are working in Pakistan,” the minister added.
The country’s economy is unable to bear the burden of over two million refugees and “they (refugees) are left with no other option but to leave Pakistan”, said Baloch.
The minister alleged that Afghanistan didn’t fulfil its promise regarding repatriation of refugees.
“Afghan government didn’t act upon the plan devised by Pakistan for repatriation of its citizens.”
Qadir Baloch termed the apprehensions of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government regarding Afghan Refugees as genuine.
“The KP government is right in saying that Afghan refugees are hurting the economy and culture of the province beside their involvement in crimes,” the minister added.
ACHAKZAI FLAYED BY OPPOSITION, SOCIAL MEDIA:
Achakzai’s statement drew strong condemnations from people on social media with some suggesting that he should be sent to Afghanistan.
Ejaz Chaudhry, a PTI leader, wondered if Achakzai would repeat his statement in the Parliament of Pakistan, to which he himself is a member.
Many said Mahmood Khan Achakzai was speaking the language of Afghanistan and its refugees who are a big burden on Pakistan economy.
PTI leader Shaukat Yusufzai, speaking about the statement of Achakzai, said that the MNA never spoke in support of Pakistan. He said Achakzai has so much love for Afghanistan, he should plead their case with the Afghan government and also move to that country himself.
He said the statement of Achakzai was based on personal interests.
Meanwhile, there were hundreds of tweets on social media with the hash tag ‘DeportAchakzaiToAfghanistan’. One of the users said, “He is silently supporting RAW and NDS activities in Balochistan.” Another said “Wake up Pakistan. We the people vote for the likes of him and put them into assemblies now we should kick him out.” Yet another said, “This land is not a real estate of Mr. Achakzai. Why let him roam free?”