World moot on Afghan refugees: Here’s what leaders have to say!
◙ UN chief praises Pakistan's 'resilience, commitment for Afghans' despite minimal world support
◙ PM Imran says Pakistan wants peace in Afghanistan
◙ UNHCR Filippo Grandi says Pakistanis have stood with Afghan brothers for the last 40 years
◙ FM Qureshi says repatriation of Afghan refugees requires global efforts
A two-day international moot namely “40 years of Afghan Refugees Presence in Pakistan: A New Partnership for Solidarity” is being held in Islamabad.
The conference organised jointly by the Pakistan government and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), is thought to have a considerable impact on the future of the 4.6 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.
The event that began today (Monday) was addressed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
Ministers and senior officials from around 20 countries, who have been supporting the Afghan refugees across the globe and in Pakistan, are also participating in the conference.
Addressing the moot, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lauded Pakistan’s “remarkable resilience and commitment for the Afghan brothers” in spite of the minimal international support.
"We have come together to recognise a remarkable story of solidarity and compassion. It is important to do so because it is a story that spans over decades."
He affirmed that the United Nations favours repatriation of Afghan refugees.
"The story of Pakistan and Afghan refugees is a story of compassion to be celebrated for many reasons, one of which is that such compassion is missing from much of the world," said the UN chief.
Prime Minister Imran Khan in his inaugural speech reaffirmed that Pakistan seeks peace in Afghanistan as instability in the war-torn country is not in its interest.
“It is my belief that the people of Afghanistan have suffered more than any other human community and I pray from my heart that these peace talks are successful.”
Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mehmood Qureshi in his speech said that Pakistan, despite crises, has been providing all basic facilities to millions of Afghan refugees. The relation between Pakistan and Afghanistan is based on joint religion and culture, he added.
He said that the solution to Afghan conflict is inevitable for peace in the region.
Qureshi pointed out that Pakistan is hosting five million refugees as per Islamic values. Every migrant is hoping that peace will restore leading to repatriation, he asserted.
The minister further stated that no country can handle this issue alone, urging the world to join hands with Pakistan to provide basic needs to Afghan refugees and enable them to live a dignified life. Caring should be a shared responsibility, he underscored.
He said Afghan refugees are expecting the world to rebuild their country after the restoration of peace there.
Qureshi said that Pakistan has always supported peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan as it believes that peace in the neighbouring country will improve regional stability.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in his address said for the last 40 years, as we have heard, the people of Pakistan have stood with their Afghan brothers.
He said Pakistanis supported Afghans through the early days of upheaval and displacement when a third of Afghanistan’s population fled across its borders in just a few years.
Pakistanis stood with their Afghan brethren through moments of hope, when millions returned, seeking stability and a future back home, he added.
More from UN chief
"For 40 years, the people of Afghanistan have faced many crises, for 40 years the people of Pakistan have responded with solidarity. This generosity now spans across decades and generations and this is the world’s largest protracted refugee situation in recorded history.
"This is also a story close to my heart. In my previous life, as the UN human rights commissioner, Pakistan was a familiar destination. During most of my time at the post, Pakistan was the number one refugee-hosting nation in the world.
"For more than three out of every four years since 1979, either Pakistan or Iran have ranked as the top refugee-hosting country. And even though major conflicts have since erupted in other parts of the world and the refugee population has soared, Pakistan is still today the world’s second-largest refugee-hosting country in the world.
"On every visit here, I have been struck by their resilience, exceptional generosity and compassion. I not only saw compassion in words but in deeds.
"The generous spirit is fully in-line with what I regard as the best description for refugee protection is found in Surah Al-Tawbah of the Holy Quran and I quote: “And if anyone seeks your protection then grant him protection so therein he can hear the words of God. Then escort him where he can be secure.”
"This protection should be accorded to believers and non-believers alike – in a remarkable example of tolerance, many centuries before the 1951 convention that defines in a modern concept of refugees and the protection they deserve.
"I saw that compassion play out in real-time in Pakistan and it was grounded in vision. We have seen many innovative policies introduced here: bio-metric registration, access to the national education system, healthcare and inclusion in the economy. And in spite of the many challenges that Pakistan faced, the commencement of these initiatives has made a big difference. Indeed many [of these practices] have been recognised as a global model of good practices.
"Some of these policies have inspired elements of the global compact on refugees. we have been proud to work with you to support Pakistan host communities of Afghan refugees. However, we must recognise that international support for Pakistan has been minimal compared to your own national efforts.
"As we look to the challenges ahead, the global community should step up. As we have marked 40 unbroken years of solidarity, but we also despair at the 40 broken years of hostility.
"The Afghan conflict drags on and on and we see the deep impact of the protracted nature of conflict, poverty and forced displacement. We know the solution lies in Afghanistan and I hope the signals of a possible passageway of peace will lead to a better future for the people of Afghanistan.
"I see with us Ambassador Khalilzad and I want to strongly encourage [pursuing] the way for peace. The Afghan people can count on the United Nations to support the efforts for peace. We don’t seek protagonism, we are here only to serve.
The Afghan people need and deserve peace and prosperity and full respect of their human rights," Guterres said.
Importantly, in Azad Kashmir, a protest rally was held in Muzaffarabad, demanding the United Nations to conduct the promised plebiscite and stop human rights violations in occupied Kashmir.
More from PM Imran Khan
The prime minister said that the whole country was on the “same page” with regards to Afghanistan. He added that previously it was said that the government and the country’s security forces were not on the same page, however, this was not the case at the moment.
The premier highlighted that Pakistan was not seeking peace in Afghanistan because it has been hosting 1.4 million Afghan refugees, but because the people of Afghanistan deserve peace.
The premier also shared that today’s conference was a celebration “because there were not many instances that those who have been refugees have conducted themselves with honour”. He remarked that Pakistan despite its challenges has kept a wonderful relationship with Afghan refugees.
“A remarkable relationship has endured considering the situation that our [Pakistan] economy has faced,” remarked PM Imran.
PM Imran pointed out that there were “no safe havens” in Pakistan, however, he admitted that it was possible that such safe heavens were operating in the country after 9/11 in the refugee camps.
“How is the government capable of checking how militants operate from the camps,” highlighted PM Imran, adding that it was not possible because refugee camps have had a population of over 100,000.
PM Imran told the audience that Pakistan seeks peace in Afghanistan for humanitarian reasons and to bring prosperity in the areas near the Durand Line.
He assured the audience that since coming to power his government has “done everything to facilitate the Afghan peace process”.