Kabul wants refugees back after Pakistan PM proposed nationality to Afghans

An Afghan refugee girl carries her brother at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Islamabad on Feb. 1, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 02 October 2018

Kabul wants refugees back after Pakistan PM proposed nationality to Afghans

  • The previous extension of refugees, who have Proof of Registration (PoR) cards, expired on Sept. 30 and with a new extension, the refugees could stay for nine more months

ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan wants refugees back, a senior Afghan diplomat said on Monday, days after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that nationality would be granted to Afghans born in Pakistan.
Khan’s proposal was opposed by Baloch nationalists but hailed by Pashtoon nationalists and some senior political leaders.
“Imran Khan’s statement was in a positive spirit but Afghan government policy is to repatriate our citizens in a gradual and graceful process. But expect Pakistan to extend their support during their stay till return,” Afghanistan Deputy Ambassador to Pakistan Zardasht Shams told Arab News.
“I am speaking on our policy on refugees which has not changed so far.” He recalled President Ashraf Ghani’s announcement that refugees would be repatriated in two years and he has also assigned the task to various ministries to implement the plan.
“We cannot take them (refugees) by force and repatriation will be voluntary. But the policy is that we want the return of all refugees from Pakistan and Iran,” he said.
The Afghan diplomat’s comments came after Pakistan Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced on Sept. 27 that the federal Cabinet had extended the stay of the Afghan refugees until June 2019.
Chaudhry said the prime minister also issued instructions for the formulation of a comprehensive policy about the Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, adding that Pakistan cannot expel the refugees under its international commitments.
The previous extension of refugees, who have Proof of Registration (PoR) cards, expired on Sept. 30 and with a new extension, the refugees could stay for nine more months.
Shams said Pakistan has not officially informed the Afghan government about the extension but insisted the decision will also be applicable for those documented this year, who had previously been considered unregistered.
He said around 880,000 were documented in the process that was concluded earlier this year.
The UN refugee agency says a total of 12,162 have voluntarily repatriated this year from Pakistan to Afghanistan.
“We still have 1.4 million Afghan refugees remaining in Pakistan,” Shams told Arab News.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have now established a bilateral working group on refugee returns and reintegration within the framework of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan on Peace and Solidarity.
Afghan refugees welcomed the nine-month extension but urged the Pakistani government to announce a long-term extension unless peace is returned to the war-ravaged country.
“We welcome the Pakistani Cabinet’s recent decision as a positive step but we want an extension until all facilities are available and peace is restored in Afghanistan,” Sherzad, the spokesman for an Afghan refugee committee, told Arab News from Peshawar.
Sherzad also praised Imran Khan’s citizenship proposal and said Afghan refugees were facing problems in education, health and business in Pakistan.
“Imran Khan’s announcement about citizenship has raised high hopes among the refugees for a better life,” he said.
Chief of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan Siraj-ul-Haq also backed Khan’s decision and said if European countries and the US grant citizenship to hundreds of thousands of people then why should Pakistan deprive Afghans of this right?
“I also support Imran Khan’s proposal for an open border with Afghanistan and want this to be implemented,” the Jamaat chief told Arab News in Islamabad.
Imran Khan, in his July 26 victory speech, had said he wanted an open border with Afghanistan, like the European states, at a time when the security forces are busy in fencing the border with Afghanistan, which is mostly porous.
Akhtar Jan Mengal, chief of the Balochistan National Party, a partner in the ruling coalition, has opposed Imran Khan’s nationality proposal and said the move is contrary to the agreement with his party which called for the repatriation of Afghan refugees.


Belarus authorities free detainees amid protesters’ pressure

Updated 27 min ago

Belarus authorities free detainees amid protesters’ pressure

  • Around midnight, scores of detainees were seen walking out of one of Minsk’s jails
  • The releases came hours after Belarus’ top law enforcement official apologized on state television for the indiscriminate use of force by police

MINSK, Belarus: Belarusian authorities have released dozens of people detained amid demonstrations contesting the results of the presidential election, in an attempt to assuage public anger against a brutal crackdown on peaceful protests.
Around midnight, scores of detainees were seen walking out of one of Minsk’s jails. In the early morning, volunteers also saw at least 119 detainees being released in the сity of Zhodino just northeast of the Belarusian capital. Ambulances arrived to carry those who apparently were unable to walk on their own.
The releases came hours after Belarus’ top law enforcement official apologized on state television for the indiscriminate use of force by police. “I take responsibility for what they say was violence against those people, who happened to be nearby and failed to back off quickly enough,” Interior Minister Yuri Karayev said late Thursday.
The apologies and the release of detainees follow five days of massive protests, in which crowds of demonstrators swarmed the streets to contest the vote results and demand an end to the 26-year rule of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. On Thursday, thousands of workers rallied outside industrial plants to denounce the police crackdown and push for a recount of Sunday’s vote.
Nearly 7,000 people have been detained and hundreds injured in the clampdown on demonstrators protesting the official results that said Lukashenko won 80% of the vote and his top opposition challenger only 10%. Police have broken up protests with stun grenades, tear gas, rubber bullets and severe beatings.
On Thursday, hundreds of women formed long “lines of solidarity” in several areas of the capital, Minsk. Many were dressed in white and carried flowers and portraits of detained loved ones.
The human chains grew throughout the day, filling Minsk’s main central squares and avenues and spreading to numerous other cities as motorists honked in support. In Minsk and several other cities, thousands of factory workers also rallied against the police violence, raising the prospect of strikes in a new challenge to the government. Protesters were shouting “Go away!” to demand Lukashenko’s resignation.
Amid growing public dismay, dozens of military and police veterans posted videos in which they dumped their uniforms and insignia in the trash. Several popular anchors at Belarus’ state TV stations have quit.
The demonstrations have spread even though the protest lacks leaders. The top opposition challenger in the vote, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, suddenly emerged Tuesday in neighboring Lithuania and called on her supporters to stop protests in a video that her associates said was recorded under pressure from law enforcement officials before she left. The 37-year-old former teacher had joined the race to replace her husband, an opposition blogger, who has been jailed since May.
The massive protests against election results and police brutality have been an unprecedented challenge to Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994 and earned the nickname of “Europe’s last dictator” for his relentless crackdown on dissent. The scope and ferocity of the police clampdown were remarkable even for Lukashenko’s iron-fisted rule, triggering widespread anger.
After dismissing protesters as mostly ex-convicts and unemployed, the authoritarian leader kept silent Thursday as the demonstrations spread quickly. Some reports said he was preparing an address to the nation.
A protester died Monday in Minsk when, according to the Interior Ministry, an explosive device he tried to throw at police blew up in his hand. Media reports challenged the ministry’s claim, alleging that he was killed by police. The place where he died quickly turned into a pilgrimage site, with hundreds of people, including European ambassadors, laying flowers there.
The authorities said that a detainee died in the southeastern city of Gomel, but the circumstances of his death weren’t immediately clear.
The brutal suppression of protests drew harsh criticism in the West.
European Union foreign ministers are set to meet Friday to discuss a response, and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the 27-nation bloc would “increase the pressure” on Belarus.