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.


Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of attacking settlements in disputed region

Updated 27 September 2020

Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of attacking settlements in disputed region

  • Armenia’s Defense Ministry said its troops downed 2 Azerbaijani helicopters and 3 drones in response to an attack
  • Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said it launched a military operation along the “contact line”

YEREVAN: Armenia said early on Sunday that neighboring Azerbaijan had attacked civilian settlements in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and urged the population in the disputed region to seek refuge in shelters.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry said that its troops had downed two Azerbaijani helicopters and three drones in response to an attack it said began at 0410 GMT against civilian settlements, including the regional capital of Stepanakert.
“Our response will be proportionate, and the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan bears full responsibility for the situation,” the Armenian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry, in turn, said it had launched a military operation along the “contact line,” a heavily-mined no-man’s-land that separates the Armenian-backed forces from Azeri troops in the region, Russian news agencies reported.
The ministry said that an Azerbaijani helicopter had been downed but that its crew had survived.

Meanwhile, Turkey vowed complete support for Baku and called on Armenia to give up its “aggression.”
“We will support our Azerbaijani brothers with all our means in their fight to protect their territorial integrity,” Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement.
Turkey is a key ally of Baku with close cultural and linguistic ties with Azerbaijan.
Ankara has no diplomatic relations with Yerevan due to a dispute over the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire which Armenia says is a genocide.
“The greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the Caucasus is Armenia’s aggression, and it should give up this aggression which will throw the region into fire,” Akar said.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin “strongly” condemned the clashes and said Armenia “once again violated international law and (has) shown that it has no interest in peace and stability.”
He called on the international community to “say stop to this dangerous provocation” in a tweet.
“Azerbaijan is not alone. It has Turkey's full support,” Kalin added.
The Turkish foreign ministry in a statement went further, promising: “However Azerbaijan wants, we will stand by Azerbaijan in that manner.”
The two former Soviet countries have long been in conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway, mainly ethnic-Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh, and border clashes have intensified in recent months.
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry condemned what it called the “aggression of the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan” and said the Armenian side would deliver an appropriate military and political response.
Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence during a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Though a cease-fire was agreed in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azeri-Armenian frontier.