National Consultations on Afghan Refugees in Pakistan

Consultation with government officials

Currently, there are some 1,470,000 displaced persons of Afghan ancestry or origin (also referred to as “Afghan refugees”) living in Pakistan, to whom the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has issued Proof of Registration (POR) cards during the country-wide registration in 2006/2007. There are, in addition, an estimated 500,000 undocumented Afghans living in Pakistan. 74 percent of Afghan refugees are second or third generation born in Pakistan. It is widely recognized in the international community that Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world, which has hosted such a large refugee community over such an extended period of time. Pakistan’s generous and prolonged investment in the Afghan refugee community is, however, in danger of being frittered away because of the absence of a long-term, comprehensive and well-thought-out national policy for the management and voluntary repatriation of Afghan Refugees. The adoption of a comprehensive policy would allow for a more predictable and solutions-oriented approach to managing the refugee population, in line with the national interests of Pakistan. A long-term strategy would further support the efforts to mobilize resources needed for facilitating voluntary repatriation and for continued support to Pakistani host communities, pending the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland. Please refer to our Introductory Booklet to National Consultations on Afghan Refugees for further information The absence of a comprehensive legal and administrative policy governing the issue of refugees is detrimental to Pakistan on many fronts; from security and border management to the regulation of labor and migration. Indeed, adopting a national comprehensive policy for refugees would serve as an important part of national security policy, a population and border management tool, and above all, ensure that all residents of Pakistan are being afforded the rights that they are entitled to. Furthermore, it should be noted that such an undertaking would be beneficial for promoting regional stability by strengthening Afghanistan-Pakistan relations. In order to respond to the need for comprehensive national legislation and policy formulation on Afghan refugees, CODE PAKISTAN initiated the National Consultations on Afghan Refugees in Pakistan to sensitize the Government of Pakistan on evolving a comprehensive policy on voluntary repatriation and management of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. The specific objectives of the National Consultations on Afghan Refugees in Pakistan were two-fold and as follows:

  1. Conducting stakeholder consultations for developing policy recommendations on the voluntary repatriation and management of Afghan refugees in Pakistan;
  2. Presenting policy recommendations generated through stakeholder consultations to the Government of Pakistan and other relevant state institutions.

The consultative sessions were held in two rounds in Islamabad. The first round was held on January 10, while the second round was held on January 24. Each round of consultative sessions comprised of simultaneous consultations on the following six themes:

  1. Existing Legal Mechanisms to Manage Afghan Refugees in Pakistan: The Application of National and International Legal Instruments;
  2. Institutional Mechanisms for the Management of Refugees in Pakistan: Past and Future;
  3. The Emerging International Climate on Refugee Management: How should Pakistan Respond?
  4. Tapping into the Economic Growth Potential of Afghan Refugees in Pakistan;
  5. Political response to Afghan Refugees in Pakistan;
  6. Islam and Muhajireen: Viewing Pakistan’s Afghan Refugee Phenomenon from the Lens of Islamic Discourses on Hijrah.

The first round of consultations was aimed at a general discussion around the six themes, while the second round was meant for converging on practical recommendations on each of them. We held another round of consultations with senior-level government officials on February 28 to share the draft findings and recommendations of the two rounds of consultations with them and to seek their feedback on both. The proceedings of the consultations were published by CODE PAKISTAN in the form of a comprehensive Report on National Consultations on Afghan Refugees in Pakistan. The Report was shared with key government officials through the Ministry of SAFRON. In making this effort, CODE PAKISTAN followed in the footsteps of the Government of Pakistan, which had approved the adoption of a National Refugee Law in a federal cabinet meeting on August 15, 2013, and subsequently on February 7, 2017.