Pakistan complains the large numbers of refugees are a burden and militants could hide among them
Pakistan’s government has extended the stay of Afghan refugees in the country for 60 days, dispelling fears that a large-scale repatriation back to violence plagued Afghanistan was imminent.
According to Pakistani officials the federal cabinet gave 60 day extension in the Proof of Registration Cards for Afghan refugees, as Pakistan and Afghanistan struggle to improve ties.
Pakistan has extended the validity of Afghan refugees Proof of Registration (PoR) cards at least six times in the past, but the last extension granted on January 3, days after the refugees status expired was for only a month, the shortest ever awarded.
About 2.5 million Afghans live in Pakistan, home to the world’s second-largest refugee population and some of whom have been living in Pakistan since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
Pakistan’s economy has carried the burden of hosting Afghan refugees since long and in the present circumstances cannot sustain it further, read a government statement released after that extension.
The (UNHCR) in Afghanistan declined immediate comment on the Pakistani decision, saying it had yet to get all the details, but stressed the importance of refugees returning in a voluntary, gradual and in a dignified way.
But recent tense relations between the neighbors has prompted concern that Pakistan might retaliate by pushing back Afghan refugees, particularly since official permission to stay was only extended for 30 days at the beginning of this year.
However according to Pakistani authorities militants conducting terrorist attacks on both sides of the border are using refugee localities as hideouts and has also pressed the U.S.-led Western partners of the Afghan government to arrange for an early repatriation of the refugees.
The Afghan capital in recent weeks has been hit by several deadly assaults, including a massive suicide car bombing on January 27 that killed more than 100 people and was claimed by the Taliban.