ISLAMABAD (Khyber Mail): The Institute of Regional Studies organized a Roundtable discussion on “Afghan Refugees and Illegal Migrants; Problems and the way forward”. The participants included Pakistan’s former Ambassador to Afghanistan, Abrar Hussain, Dr. Noreen Naseer, University of Peshawar, expert on international humanitarian and human rights law Ms Sibah Farooq, Afghan women rights activist Ms Safia Ibrahimkhel, and President IRS Amb. Nadeem Riyaz.

According to the participants, Pakistan has the right to formulate policies regarding illegal migration as a sovereign country. However, the timing of the decision and the implementation mechanism could be debated. Many of the Afghan migrants had been living in Pakistan for decades, and the rise of terrorism incidents was not directly related to the policy.

The policy had a negative fallout in Afghanistan and with many Human Rights Organizations. The social media in Afghanistan was painting a negative picture of Pakistan, and there was a need to address these misperceptions. Pakistan and Afghanistan were neighbors, and improvement of relations between the two was essential for regional peace and prosperity.

The participants suggested that Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the International community should assist the Afghan refugees to return to their homeland with honor and dignity. It was essential to formulate a legal framework in Pakistan that could assist in proper implementation of the policy. Participants also called for research, collection of proper data, and in-depth analysis of the current situation for policy modification.

Experts also felt that after the elections, the new government should develop a sustainable long-term refugee policy after consulting all stakeholders. Pakistan and Afghanistan must enhance their relationships and liberalization of trade, enhancement of people-to-people contacts were essential. Pakistan must develop a counter-narrative to address all the misperceptions and improve its image in Afghanistan.

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