The Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) organized a Public Talk on September 7, 2018 titled, “Refugee Situation: Contextualizing the Role of Pakistan and UNHCR.” Mr. Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees was the guest speaker at the occasion.
Welcoming the guests, Director General ISSI, Ambassador (Retd) Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said the issue of Afghan refugees has been a subject of importance for Pakistan for the past four decades. He said that Mr. Grandi’s work was watched with keen interest because Pakistan has been home to one of the largest protracted refugee populations in the world. Even at present, after Syria, Afghan refugees are the largest in the number, and are spread throughout the world.
Afghan refugees are present in more than 70 countries, 95 per cent are living in Pakistan and Iran respectively. When the Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan, it was Pakistan, the US and other allies that helped Afghanistan defeat the Soviet forces. However, this came at a huge cost for Pakistan, with the pouring in of millions of refugees, Kalashnikov culture, drugs inflow, smuggling and terrorism. When the Soviets left, the US soon left after thereafter, and it was Pakistan who continued to support the Afghan refugee population. Our hearts and homes were open to them, thousands of the refugees studied in Pakistan, earned their livelihood and nearly two generations have spent time in Pakistan. Ever since, Pakistan has faced a dilemma, on one hand we are proud of opening our home, country, and work places to the people of Afghanistan in their hour of difficulty and foreign invasion , even at a huge cost to our economy. On the other hand, we are disappointed when the sacrifices of the people of Pakistan are not dully acknowledged, and instead we receive hostile rhetoric from across the border.