World Humanitarian Day is celebrated on19 August to honor humanitarian aid workers all over the world. Established by the UN in 2009, this day commemorates the anniversary of the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Iraq. 22 people lost their lives, including the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Today, Afghans make up the largest refugee group in the world and Pakistan hosts the world’s second-largest number of refugees in its territory. An estimated 3.5 million Afghan refugees are present in Pakistan since the 1980s, half of which are registered, and it is speculated that about an equal number of them are living unregistered.
Understanding the matter better
Afghan refugees have caused several economic and social challenges for Pakistan, among which the direst problem is the security threat and the rise of militancy. The terrorist outfits usually enter Pakistan pretending to be refugees. The majority of militant attacks in Pakistan are traced back to Afghan refugee camps. Keeping in mind the regional security and the rise of cross-border terrorist attacks, Pakistan initiated fencing along the Durand line.
The fencing aims to stop cross-border terrorism and halt human trafficking across the Durand Line. According to a report, 90% of fencing work along the 2,611 km long Durand Line has been completed. The border fencing along the Durand Line is likely to stop and regulate the upcoming refugee influx.
DG ISPR that “The fence on the Pak-Afghan border is needed to regulate security, border crossing and trade. The purpose of this is not to divide the people, but to protect them. The Pak-Afghan border fencing was 94% complete, We are totally focused, and under the western border management regime, the work will be completed in some time.’’
Major Efforts by Pakistan
Pakistan’s efforts to mitigate the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan include the announcement of a humanitarian assistance package of five billion rupees for the Afghan people, which contains 50,000 metric tons of wheat, medicines / medical treatment, and shelters.
- Assistance is ongoing under the Pak-Afghan Cooperation Forum (PACF) and till 21st June 2022, about 15,000 tons of humanitarian assistance via 694 trucks and four C-130 flights have been provided.
- Establishing a Free Eye Camp in Kabul from 30th May to 5th June 2022 as a joint endeavor with and with the support of the Al-Khidmat Foundation and PACF. The camp treated more than four thousand patients and operated on more than one thousand.
- Pakistan has hosted the 17th extraordinary session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of OIC in Islamabad to draw the world’s community’s attention to the looming situation and attract humanitarian assistance.
- Pakistan once again urges the global humanitarian fraternity to do everything it can to ameliorate the worsening humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.
- The majority of Afghans seem reluctant to go back mainly due to the security situation in Afghanistan.
- Today there are still 54 Afghan Refugee Camps operational in Pakistan. Out of which 43 camps are in the province of KP. The population of Afghan refugees in these 43 camps is nearly 1 million. This is in addition to the millions living in major urban centers of the country.
Pakistan and its people have shown exemplary generosity, compassion and hospitality in hosting more than 3 million Afghans for over 4 decades. We would once again urge the global humanitarian fraternity to do everything it can to ameliorate the worsening humanitarian situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJ&K) including call for lifting the year-long draconian military siege and provision of unfettered access and assistance to Kashmiri people in dire need of healthcare.
The way forward
Pakistan should follow the Iranian fencing model and build refugee camps in the border area, keeping the refugees away from the mainland. This policy can help alleviate the threat of cross-border terrorism and stop the penetration of Afghan refugees into major cities. Amidst the international pressure to accept more and more Afghan refugees, Pakistan must not compromise on its security and the threat of cross-border terrorism.
Terrorist outfits can easily penetrate into Pakistan while pretending to be Afghan refugees. Meanwhile, Pakistan is also not economically capable of welcoming another influx of refugees. Pakistan is facing a serious economic crisis, and putting more burden on the shape of refugees can exacerbate the economic situation. Helping the needy Afghans should be the top priority of Pakistan but not at the expense of instability on the territory of Pakistan.
We reiterate the need for evolving a strategic approach to address humanitarian emergencies, guided by the imperative of upholding international humanitarian law, preventing conflicts from eruption, and peacefully resolving long-standing disputes and conflicts.