ISLAMABAD: Islamabad does not have ‘serious’ complaints of Afghan refugees being involved in the acts of terrorism in Pakistan, Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch told delegates at Pak-Afghan Track II dialogue in Islamabad on Monday. Baloch’s comments, whose SAFRON ministry also deals with Afghan refugees, came amid concern in Afghanistan about Pakistan’s unwillingness to grant a long stay to nearly 1.4 registered Afghans. On January 31, the federal cabinet extended the stay of the registered Afghan refugees in the country for 60 days. Pakistan also hosts around one million unregistered Afghans, whose documentation is currently underway. “The refugees have nothing to do with security situation. Also there is no serious law and order issue or conflict witnessed between the local communities in Pakistan and the Afghan refugees,” the minister said. The minister said Pakistan had prepared a time- and resource-specific plan which is under consideration by the cabinet. “We are working in close coordination with the UNHCR, Afghan embassy and Ambassador Dr Zakhilwal. The present government in Afghanistan is far more serious than its predecessors. All repatriations should happen in close coordination to allow a dignified return of the refugees,” he said. Afghan delegates at the second round of Pak-Afghan Joint Committee (PAJC) meeting in Islamabad organised by the Centre for Research and Studies (CRSS) as part of its Track II initiative ‘Beyond Boundaries’ earlier said that the Afghan government will not be able to accommodate millions of refugees if they are forced to leave Pakistan. But the minister replied that it had never been Pakistan’s policy to expel the refugees. “We have always insisted on voluntary repatriation.” Baloch said that Pakistan was treating the issue of refugees purely on the humanitarian grounds, keeping it separate from the security or political domains. “We are also dealing with it as our international responsibility. The educational and health facilities in Pakistan are available to the Afghan refugees. I am glad to find out that 50,000 people educated in Pakistan are serving in Afghanistan currently,” he said. The participating PAJC members urged their respective governments to uphold the principle that the matter of refugees was a humanitarian issue which should not be politicised. They called for identifying actions for the capacity building of the Afghan authorities to cope with issues such as issuing passports to all those Afghans wanting to return to Afghanistan. They called upon their respective governments to set up a committee for better inter-agency and inter-governmental coordination for dignified return of the refugees. “We cannot vouch for every individual refugee. We say if there are bad guys, deal with them according to the law but don’t bracket every one with terrorists,” said UNHCR representative Ruven Menikdiwela. “We are encouraging voluntary return of Afghan refugees and support Pakistan’s idea that those who want to stay in Pakistan should get Afghan passports first and then stay there (in Pakistan) with a valid visa. Pakistan has been providing access to schools/hospitals which is an in-kind contribution,” she said. She said that the kind of hospitality that the Pakistan had shown to Afghan refugees was unprecedented and something rare but unfortunately its compassion had not been given sufficient recognition. “We would request Pakistan government to give all stakeholders sufficient time to prepare for implementation of the repatriation plans. Afghan government should prioritise capacity building of authorities in Kabul for issuing passports if it is ready to launch its resettlement program for the returning refugees.” The visiting delegation from Afghanistan comprised Elay Ershad, member of Parliament, Rangina Kargar, member of Parliament, Mozammil Shinwari, advisor to the Office of Afghan Chief Executive on Trade, Sayed Qutbuddin Roydar, former deputy minister of state for Parliamentary Affairs, Abdul Hakeem Mujahid, former permanent representative of the Taliban government to the UN, Saleem Khan Kunduzi, former governor of Nangarhar, Faridoon Sikander, representative to Afghan chief executive, Lal Durrani, deputy of Provincial Assembly of Nangarhar, Khan Jan Alokozai, co-chairman and president of Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chambers of Commerce and Industries (PAJCCI), Naqibullah Safi, membership manager with Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Yonass Momand, vice-president Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industries (PAJCCI) and Baz Mohammad, vice-president Industrial Affairs of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI). Members from Pakistan included MNA Shazia Marri, former MNA Palwasha Khan, Federal Tax Ombudsman Dr Shoaib Suddle, former ambassador Qazi Humayun, former ambassador Mian Sanaullah and others. Published in Daily Times, February 27th 2018.