A refugee is defined as a person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, migrates to another country. Pakistan considered a poor and an under-developed country has been hosting Afghan refugees since the Soviet invasion in the 1980’s. According to the report of Amnesty International,10 countries host half of the world’s refugees in which Pakistan stands on No 3, hosting 1.6 million Afghan refugees. Most of the afghans refugees are living in refugee’s campus, refugee’s villages and urban areas of Pakistan.
The 1951 Refugee Convention is the key-legal document which accurately defines the term ‘refugee’ and outlines the rights of the displaced, as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them. It is an interesting fact that Pakistan is not signatory of the refugee convention 1951 nor signatory of the 1967 Protocol yet is missing to enacted any national legislation for the protection of refugees. Pakistan did not establish the procedures to determine the refugee status of people who are seeking international protection within its territory although, history shows that Pakistan welcomed afghan refugees in the country and still hosts approximately 1.45 million refugees.
To protect the rights of refugees in the absence of national legal framework, Pakistan and UNHCR conducted refugee-status determination under its mandate adopted by the General Assembly Resolution 428 (V) of 14 December 1950. However, the Government of Pakistan signed a mutual agreement in 1993 called the Cooperation Agreement which was held between the Government of Pakistan and UNHCR. According to Cooperation Agreement, Pakistan is allowed to grant refugee’s status and allow asylum-seekers (who are still undergoing the procedure) as well as recognised refugees to remain in Pakistan pending identification of a durable solution.
The people of Pakistan help their country establish its name as a hard working-nation. The people of Pakistan are known for their hospitality, boldness, hard work, love, bravery and courage. Pakistan did not only welcome Afghan Refugees in the country but took positive initiatives to assist them as well. In 2007 the Government of Pakistan had conducted a registration exercise for afghan refugees who were living in Pakistan and issued them POR cards (Proof of Registration) with the help of NDRA. According to the report of UNHCR Approximately 1.5 million Afghans are currently holding PoR cards in the country.
Moreover, the Government of Pakistan granted 2,000 scholarships to Afghan students in different disciplines including medical and engineering colleges, the government also ensured that they will extend visa to all the Afghan students at the completion of their education. While 7,000 afghan students are currently studying in Pakistani colleges and universities, more than 30,000 Afghans, had completed their education in Pakistan. Most of these students are working in multinational companies of Pakistan and many joined different government departments.
Pakistan which is considered a poor country, still host 80% of the world’s refugee population, it is a raising question that if a poor country like Pakistan is hosting refugees and providing facilities to them, why do many wealthy countries have trouble taking such initiative? Wealthy countries should make an effort to help those that are in need. Wealthy countries are doing less than poor countries to help refugees, while Pakistan is overburdened by refugees. It is important for both countries Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight against terrorism, poverty and hunger. The government of Afghanistan should take strong initiatives to provide peace and security to their people. It will be good for the Government of Afghanistan to reduce the burden of refugees from Pakistan and appreciate the positive efforts that are done by the Govt of Pakistan.
— The writer is a working lawyer, based in Islamabad.