Pakistan hosted an international conference in Islamabad to mark the forty years presence of Afghan refugees in the country. The nation has hosted the refugees who fled the long-standing conflict in Afghanistan and displayed immense hospitality despite its own internal problems including an economic crisis, security challenges and the war on terrorism.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the conference and praised Pakistan’s for hosting the Afghan refugees. He said the support for Pakistan has been minimal as compared to its own efforts and urged the international community to step up. He said this is a litmus test on the global impact of refugees and other countries should have shouldered the burden till now.
Pakistan remains the top refugees hosting nation in the world even today as over three million Afghan refugees are still present. The main obstacle in their safe return has been the ongoing war in their homeland, but recent reports that a peace deal may be close have raised hopes. As the UN chief said, this marks forty years of unbroken solidarity but also forty years of despair and unbroken solidarity.
Hosting a conference on Afghan refugees is a great initiative but this remains mere talks if there are no concrete efforts. The UN chief realises this and said that solidarity lies not only in words but actions and the solution lies in Afghanistan. The only path to a better future for these displaced people is to bring lasting peace in Afghanistan. There is a need for renewed commitment for Afghan peace and the successful repatriation of Afghan refugees.
Forty years ago, Soviets tanks rolled in Afghanistan forcing millions to flee the country to Pakistan where many remain to date. Pakistan has generously hosted the Afghan refugees but this has come at a huge economic and social cost as the influx of weapons and drugs created new problems. Many have settled down, set up businesses and have families, while the younger generation has never even been to their homeland.
The second wave of Afghan refugees come after the 9/11 attacks when US-led forces invaded the country. For forty years, the people of Afghanistan have faced many crises and the people of Pakistan have responded with solidarity. This remains the world’s largest refugee situation in recorded history. It is necessary that this should now be resolved so that both nations could move forward on the path of development.
The global community should at least recognise the resilience, generosity and compassion which Pakistan has demonstrated. More importantly, there should be collaborative efforts to ensure that the Afghan refugees are repatriated with respect and help rebuild their own homeland.