The Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East and Africa at the Institute of Strategic Studies (ISSI) hosted a webinar on “Afghan Refugees in Pakistan: Four Decades of Hospitality.”
Ms. Amina Khan, Director CAMEA, while expressing her views stated that prolonged instability, which has all too often been marred by foreign invasions, civil wars, political and economic instability not to forget natural calamities have resulted in one of the world’s largest protracted refugee populations – the Afghan refugees. She went on to say that continued uncertainty has thus resulted in the continuous outflow of refugees.
Director General ISSI, Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, while giving his remarks stated that the refugee problem is very pertinent but has been put on the backburner due to other emerging issues, and therefore not getting its fair share of attention
Ms. Nargis Nehan was of the view that being a refugee is not a choice. She also thanked the people of Pakistan for their hospitality towards Afghan refugees and highlighted how Afghans in Pakistan have had the freedom of movement.
Mr. Saleem Khan, while shedding light on the subject, stated that 1.4million Afghan refugees are documented and 850000 are Afghan citizen card holders who are also being registered through the initiative taken by the government of Pakistan. He stated that in 2017 and 2018 unaccounted Afghans were also documented who are still living in the country.
Ms. Nasria Pashtun, highlighted the various problems faced by the refugees which include the issues pertaining to the opening of bank accounts, hurdles in buying property and the lack of jobs for highly educated Afghans. Among others, she said that many face poverty and there is also a lack of skill training for Afghan youth. The international community must address the various issues pertaining to Afghan refugees, she concluded.
Mr. Tamim Asey, while discussing the issue stated that Pakistan has hosted Afghan refugees for decades and that the experience of Afghan refugees in Pakistan has been very different. He went on to explain that Afghan refugees have come into Pakistan in four distinct phases and the influx of these four phases has brought political, military and economic challenges to Pakistan. He went on to say that Afghan refugees have also brought in remittances and Afghan entrepreneurs and skilled labour has also been an asset for Pakistan. He concluded by saying that it is also an opportunity for Pakistan as it can use humanitarian diplomacy to get global attention in this regard.
Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Chairman Board of Governors, ISSI, in his concluding remarks stated that stated that the issue of refugees has been capturing the attention of the international community since several decades.