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Pakistan extends documented Afghan refugees’ stay by another one year


Afghan refugees pictured at Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Chaman. — AFP/File

Pakistan has extended Afghan refugees legally residing in the country by another one year, according to an official statement issued following the cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

In its meeting, the federal cabinet approved a one-year extension of Proof Of Registration (POR) cards for 1.45 million Afghan refugees legally residing in the country and whose POR cards expired last month.

The extension in the POR cards has been granted till 30th June next year.

The development came a day after United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi met top Pakistani officials including Prime Minister Shehbaz and appreciated the country for suspending the “Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan,” according to a statement issued by the UNHCR.

During his discussions with Pakistani officials, the high commissioner had called for the timely extension of the POR cards, a critical identity document held by over 1.3 million Afghan refugees.

The statement said Grnadi also sought assurance that the repatriation plan would remain on hold.

In the meeting, PM Shehbaz called on the world to recognise the country’s burden of hosting a large population of Afghan refugees and demonstrate collective responsibility.

Pakistan continues to host some 3 million Afghans, all solutions need to be explored in addition to voluntary repatriation, including third country resettlement and longer-term solutions within Pakistan, according to the UNHCR statement. 

Last year, the country announced a huge drive to repatriate foreigners without visas, mostly the roughly four million Afghans who crossed the border during 40 years of armed conflict in their home country and after the Taliban seized power in 2021.

More than 500,000 Afghans have returned from Pakistan since the campaign was announced, according to UN figures.

Amid surge in terror incidents across the country, the then caretaker government in October last year decided to repatriate illegal refugees including undocumented Afghans residing in the country.

According to the latest statistics, over half a million undocumented Afghans have been deported back to their home country.

Pakistan decides to abolish PWD

In today’s meeting, the federal cabinet also approved the action plan for the abolition of the Pakistan Public Works Department (Pak PWD) and decided to form a Pakistan Infrastructure Development Company to oversee federal development projects and the Asset And Facility Management Company for repair and maintenance works.

The cabinet decided to hand over the federal government projects in the provinces to the relevant provincial departments.

The cabinet decided the Asset and Facility Management Company would be established to carry out the repair and maintenance work currently being done by the Pak PWD. After their classification, the PWD employees would be transferred to relevant ministries and a golden handshake scheme would also be introduced for them.

Moreover, the cabinet also decided to computerise the record of all PWD properties and called for completing the transition process within two weeks.



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