Pakistan PM extents Afghan refugees’ stay for six months

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has extended Afghan refugees’ stay in the country for six months, the PM office said on Wednesday.

The period of the Proof of Registration (PoR) cards that allow Afghan refugees to stay in Pakistan was scheduled to be expired on June 30.

Afghan Ambassador in Islamabad Omar Zakhilwal and spokesperson for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), Dunya Khan, also confirmed the decision.

The Prime Minister directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and States and Frontier Regions to immediately engage with the UNHCR and Government of Afghanistan for gradual relocation of refugee camps in Pakistan to Afghanistan.

“In order to facilitate relocation and as a gesture of continued goodwill, Pakistan shall commit provision of wheat for the relocated camps in Afghanistan for a period of three years, free of cost,” the statement said.

Pakistan hosts nearly 1.6 million registered Afghans, according to the UNHCR. Besides there are about one million unregistered Afghans living in Pakistan.

“The stay of PoR card holders Afghan refugees shall be extended for a further period of six months only, till December 31, 2016,” the PM’s office said.

Zakhilwal said that extension in the refugees stay will provide an opportunity for Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as the world community to hold negotiations about the repatriation of the refugees.

Afghan officials said they had requested Pakistan to extend the PoR cards for two more years so they are able to make arrangements to accommodate the returnees.