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Editorial: Return of refugees

Pakistan is the largest host of Afghan refugees. The hospitality will be remembered by Afghan people and the government for always. It is forming a chapter of friendship amid strained ties between Kabul and Islamabad. Those who look at this generosity with contempt or give it a different color are doing great injustice. The previous and current governments have always appreciated Pakistan on various forums for extending hospitality to Afghan refugees. The refugees can drive relations of the two countries towards improvement in different areas. Stay of Afghan refugees in Pakistan can be used as a bridge to connect the two neighboring countries that are near but yet so far.

Similarly, Iran has also extended helping hand towards Afghans when the then Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and started systematic massacre of Afghan people and destruction of the country. Moscow has turned a peaceful, stable and rapidly developing Afghanistan into ruins. Alcoholic Leonid Brezhnev, most powerful figure in the Soviet Union at the time, will always be cursed by Afghans because since his decision the country has not seen any ray of hope. At that critical juncture, support of Tehran was widely welcomed and given a positive message that Afghans are not alone. They still got friends—good friends.

As Afghan government is engaged in fighting insurgency and terrorism, repatriation of refugees is a herculean task. Kabul is spending human and financial resources on improving security across the land. Return of refugees would slow the process of improving the law and order situation, though Afghan government has repeatedly wished to repatriate Afghans in order to speed up the process of reconstruction and development. The sooner the refugees are repatriated would be better because it would provide infuse new blood in the rusted infrastructure. Afghan government realizes this fact.

The repatriation process would consume huge amount of financial and human resources. Therefore, declaration of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process on Afghanistan on Sunday, urging the participating countries hosting Afghan refugees particularly Pakistan and Iran to halt the process of sending them until “sustainable repatriation” is commendable. Challenges that spike of the refugee returns present are many. The host countries should send back the Afghan refugees in dignified manner. Hasty process will harm public-to-public relations. Second, it would consume the resources that have been allocated to fight Daesh on Afghan soil. It would provide an opportunity to the global terrorist network to establish bases in other parts of the region.

However, extension in stay of the refugees by the host countries is not a durable solution. Relevant Afghan authorities should explore all avenues to repatriate the refugees and provide shelter, jobs and other necessary facilities to them. It will ease pressure on the next elected government.

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