The refugee problem is an affair of critical importance for Pakistan since the last three or more decades now. It has impacted the economic and the security structure of the country. So the world needs to deal with these humanitarian and military components simultaneously to resolve this crisis.
The time has come that the world must look at the Global Refugee crisis afresh. New solutions are required if we are to bring the populations of the world which are under threat and crisis out of perpetual conflict and war. Dr. Sultan was speaking at the SASSI conference. 60,000 people from Afghanistan enter Pakistan on daily basis, she added.
Dr Maria Sultan, Chairperson and Director-General of South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) University, stated this while speaking on the second day of a two-day international conference on ‘Refugee Crisis and Its Ramifications for Global & National Security’ here Tuesday.
Addressing the conference organized by SASSI, the Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervez Rashid said the whole world is experiencing refugee crisis more severe than anything it has seen in decades. He regretted that the world failed to cover an important issue, the arrival of Afghan refugees to Pakistan. The increased misunderstanding between the Taliban and Afghan government has resulted in the escalation of conflict between the two, which led to in the displacement of Afghan population, forcing them to take shelter in Pakistan.
The Minister for Information said Pakistan is making sincere efforts in bringing the Taliban to the negotiations table and supporting the quadrilateral Afghan peace talks, but in the end, it will be the Afghan government which will lead the process as it must be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led. He this is being done to help the Afghan government achieve lasting peace in the country.
Pervez Rashid said the peace zone should be established in Afghanistan close to Pak-Afghan border so that people are not forced to migrate to Pakistan but could be saved from becoming refugees. He also urged help for Afghanistan in the post-conflict reconstruction. World community, regional states along with the international organizations should help Afghanistan in establishing this peace zone to create economic opportunities and impart skills to the war-threatened population. “We need peaceful world and peaceful region.”
Speaking on the occasion, National Security Adviser Lt. Gen (Retd) Nasir Khan Janjua said that word “Refugee” comes to him with lot of pain, suffering, agony, anguish, distress and misery.
Questioning that why nations go to war, the National Security Adviser referred to a quote that “All wars are to seek peace.” He also asked where the peace is. Rather the world is becoming insecure. He lamented that Afghan children have not seen peace ever since the Russian invasion. “We find no end to this war. The whole Arab world is put on fire without thinking about the human suffering, and will continue to bleed for another 50 years,” he added.
Lt. Gen (Retd) Janjua said the perpetual war in Afghanistan, the preparation of India as a counterweight and the nuclearisation of the Indian Ocean should be condemned as these factors are disturbing the equilibrium of national, regional and global peace, particularly of South Asia. So, he emphasized that the efforts made to seek war must be foiled.
On the issue of Afghan refugees, the National Security Adviser said Pakistan has sacrificed maximum for Afghanistan and shared its bread, homes, land and infrastructure. “We didn’t ask for the invasion when the Soviets came to Afghanistan; we didn’t ask for 9/11 but we again stood with the world but it has earned us a bad name,” he emphasized.
Pakistan’s National Security Adviser said there is an absence of border management and more than 26,000-km border between Pakistan and Afghanistan lies without any kind of barriers or walls so border management and appeasement rights should be seriously considered.
“We are trying to play our role for peace and I am sure together we have a shared future and we will connect as a gateway to the world including Central Asia and China,” he said. “Those who have the power need to sit down and revisit their thinking and strategies which have injured the world,” he stressed.
Maj. Gen Noel Israel Khokhar, Director-General ISSRA at the NationalDefenceUniversity, stressed: “We should look at the nature of crisis and should resolve it in a better manner through learning from the past experiences as this is a complex issue.”
Dr Imran Zeb Khan, Chief Commissioner for Afghan refugees, defined three aspects — burden sharing, dealing with the new displacements and looking for the long-term solutions to the refugee problem. Saying that it has been 37 years since Pakistan is hosting Afghan refugees, he called for not attributing the terrorism, drug culture and Kalashnikov culture to Afghan refugees.
Clearing another misperception, Dr Imran Zeb Khan said that Afghan people want to go back to their country as they even bury their dead ones in Afghanistan. “Refugees should be sent back to Afghanistan voluntarily and in a sustainable manner. We have to bring the refugee law in Pakistan. We have to provide them the youth empowerment to ensure that they go on the positive sides and don’t go to terrorism or other negative sides as Afghanistan has ISIS and other terrorist organizations networks,” he emphasized.
Maj. Gen Khawar Haneef, former Director General of Pakistan’s Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), focused on the regional situation and national security of Pakistan. About drug production, he said, “74% of the World’s Opium is coming from Afghanistan. All the opium in Pakistan is coming from Afghanistan and though Afghan president assured to control opium production, still it is being cultivated immensely”.
“Pakistan has thus become a transit route for drug trafficking due to the porous border, easement rights, overall law and order situation, peer pressure affecting the youth, below par performance of law-enforcement agencies and the free movement of people between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said. “There is a need to stop inflow of drugs from Afghanistan. International cooperation, drug demand reduction and drug supply reduction is needed.”
Rahimullah Yusufzai, a senior journalist and expert on Afghan affairs, focused on Afghan refugees in Pakistan and said that Pakistan’s efforts for hosting the largest refugees are not acknowledged. “We have third generation of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.”
Lt Gen (Retd) Hamid Khan, former crops commander of Peshawar, said when a developed country became the victim of refugee crisis, then the world diverted its attention to this important issue which has been an issue in Third World countries for decades. He said the challenges faced by refugees in host countries which includes trauma of leaving their homeland, travelling and the language issue should be keenly addressed.
He also mentioned the acceptance of the refugees flowing to their borders and availability of infrastructure as the challenges faced by host countries. He recommended the host countries to maintain a detailed record of refugees; allow them freedom of movement; and integrate them in their population.Otherwise, he said, the humanitarian safe zones should be established in the countries of refugees so that they become IDPs rather than refugees.
Rustam Shah Mohmand, former Ambassador to Afghanistan, said that no law would give Afghan refugees the authority or citizenship to live in Pakistan so refugee law should be framed. He emphasized that Pakistan should stop the harassment of refugees, create safer enclaves in Afghanistan, stabilize the border with the help of international community and should make a vigorous political intervention in Afghanistan to deal with the situation in a proper manner.
Atif Saeed Channa, principal of GuardsPublicCollege, said the Western anti-immigration policy makes refugee intake difficult but yet refugees are reaching there. He said that taking large number of refugees requiressteps against the backlash of Islamophobia in the West.
Greek Ambassador to Pakistan Dimitrios Zoitossaid his country feels overwhelmed by the refugees because of the perceived threat that some of them might be terrorists and it has severely impacted the Greek economy which is still in the recession for the last six years. He said the bulk of the refugees come from Syria, Iraq and Libya while smaller number of refugees are from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Moreover, the bulk of the refugees travelling by sea are being dealt by either Greece or Italy.
Offering solutions, the Greek ambassador said it should be dealt by the international community as a global crisis. He also suggested that the countries outside of Europe like Australia, the US and Japan as well as rich Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia along with Gulf countries should host the refugees.
Ihsan Ghani, former national coordinator of the National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA), said Pakistan continues hosting the world’s largest refugee population with most of it being undocumented. “No short-term fixes can resolve the situation. There is a need to break the myths and misperceptions about the Afghan refugees. No refugee is above the law of the host country. Confidence-buildingmeasures are crucial to continuing long-term relations between the two countries. Ultimate solution lies in Afghanistan through sustainable reintegration of refugees with dignity.”
Amir Zulfiqar, Deputy Inspector General Operations of the Punjab Police, said there are major issues for the Police. He said the first one is to know whether an Afghan is registered or not as Afghan people know the routes through which they do smuggling and then some get fake Pakistan identity cards which add to the difficulty of police.
Saleem Safi, a journalist, said: “We are the contributors who brought Afghan refugees as a burden for ourselves as they were permitted to have licenses of Kalashnikovs which Pakistanis were not allowed.”The analyst said that Afghan refugees are contributing towards the economy of Pakistan, some are living in Pakistan legally, others are undocumented, some have made Pakistani identity cards through the facilitation of regional Pakistani governments and others are fighting against Pakistan at the behest of the intelligence agencies working against Pakistan.
About the solutions to refugee crisis, he said that integration is not the solution because it is against the dignity of Afghanistan and would question its stability.Secondly, he said, it will provide an incentive to new Afghan for coming to Pakistan, which is not affordable for Pakistan.
Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Dr. Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal thanked the people of Pakistan for their patience, tolerance and hospitality towards Afghan refugees. “Refugee life is not an easy one because it’s someone who is driven out and whose life has become difficult. As a refugee, I can tell you if there are ways to return to a place where I can call myself a citizen of that country,I will give up the life of difficulty,” he said.
The Afghan ambassador said the refugees could be used as a source to strengthen the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan and the two governments should change the situation through providing them proper channels for the refugees to return to their homeland.
Dr. Jehanzeb Jamaldini, a senator from Balochistan, said the refugee crisis is a global phenomenon and the conflict of the international forces has forced many people to become the refugees. He said there is disruption and chaos in the areas where the refugees have gone globally. He said that Afghan refugees are causing demographic change in Pakistan, especially in Balochistan. He urged the international community and UNHCR to make the repatriation of Afghan refugees possible.PREVIOUS NEXT