In a world with complex political systems, deviating from diplomatic processes leads to nothing but chaos. Nevertheless, it is sometimes necessary to think out of the box. The Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, and later on the US invasion in 2001,are examples of how military interventions lead to complete pandemonium. The situation in Afghanistan affects Pakistan in a number of ways, but the major blowback comes in the form of the protracted refugee crisis that we have been burdened with for forty years. Pakistan is not among the 147 states that are signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention that relates to the status of refugees but is host to one of the largest refugee populations in the world. According to the latest figures given by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) , there are a total of about 1.39 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan. With the international community losing interest, and a decline in funding from UNHCR, can the country sustain the Afghan refugee population within its borders? Pakistan has exhibited empathy and generosity for over 40 years to the Afghans fleeing their homeland to escape instability and war. Unfortunately, the chaos in Afghanistan never ended. Last month the Afghan Taliban, in abrazen attack, overran Ghazni, killing hundreds of Afghan soldiers. Similarly, last week rockets were fired at the presidential palace during a ceremony on Eid. Considering these were recent examples, is it fair to send Afghan refugees into a war zone? Half of the Afghan refugees are children, who were born here and know of no other home. Is deportation fair to these young children? These people have been here for the last three decades. Some of them run big businesses in Pakistan and have made significant contribution in industries like carpets, goods transport and construction, a lot of Afghans also work as daily wage workers, salesmen and drivers. Half of the Afghan refugees are children, who were born here and know of no other home. Is deportation fair to these young children? These people have been here for the last three decades. Do their lives matter at all to us? Their children study here, some have even married into Pakistani Pashtun families. What will be the status of those children born to a Pakistani mother and an “Afghan refugee” father? Do we ever think about those old “Afghan refugees” who use certain medical facilities that are not available in Afghanistan? Do their lives matter at all to us? Currently the Afghan refugees in Pakistan are issued Proof of Registration(POR) cards, which were first introduced in 2007 by UNHCR, after the first Afghan refugee census in 2005. The duration of these cards is extended by every government for short periods of time. The most recent extension in validity on PoR cards was given by the caretaker government for three months. This uncertainty, leaves the refugees vulnerable at the hand of local officials and police, who see their uncertain status as a major rent seeking opportunity. This short term renewal in validity of PoR cards also created problems in accessing health and educational facilities, and subsequently uncertainty looms over their heads. Apart from the registered 1.3 million registered refugees, it was estimated that there are around 600,000 more Afghan refugees in Pakistan who are completely undocumented. Some of them never got themselves registered, while some acquired Pakistani CNICs illegally, which were later cancelled by NADRA. Last year NADRA introduced the Afghan Citizen Card for these undocumented Afghans by providing certain incentives on registration. The current Government policy is focused on documenting Afghan refugees and eventually repatriating them. Now for a minute take off the hyper-nationalistic lens and see this as a humanitarian issue. It is said that “no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land”. Are we as a nation willing to send these women and children back to Afghanistan, where they fear for their lives and have very limited opportunities to earn a decent livelihood? Some of these people we want to get rid of were born in Pakistan; completed their education here; have friends and family ties here; they have jobs and work in different sectors; and also run successful businesses throughout the country. For them this is home, this is their country and now they have very limited association or linkages left in Afghanistan. For starters, the Government needs to end the uncertainty around the status of Afghan refugees and formulate a long-term, consistent and predictable policy which not only gives them a sense of stability in their lives but is also firmly grounded in humanitarian considerations. Pakistan is planning to introduce a visa regime, which will allow Afghans to stay in the country under four or five different categories of visas such as businessmen, labourers, students etc. The aim however, is that after the visa ends they will be sent back to Afghanistan. The whole policy revolves around trying to get rid of them. These people are as Pakistani as you and I, although they don’t have the documents to prove it. The state needs to go beyond temporary measures, and should treat Afghan refugees as economic migrants whereby a visa regime under a work category can lead to them acquiring citizenship. There are cases where an Afghani origin man is married to a woman from Pakistan, and Section 10(2) of Pakistan Citizen Act 1951 only provides mechanisms for a foreign woman to acquire citizenship if married to a Pakistani man. However, no such provision is available for non-Pakistani men. Do keep in mind that this is the same discriminatory law we feel very strongly about when applied by states in the Middle East, whereby Pakistani men don’t get citizenship of the country when they marry a woman of Middle Eastern origin. The country needs a forward looking approach, whereby we should integrate rather than isolate the almost 2 million Afghan refugees in this country. The writer is a Pakistan based journalists and anchor-person Published in Daily Times, August 29th 2018.