WORLD

Kabul urges Islamabad not to 'politicize' refugee issue

KABUL URGES ISLAMABAD NOT TO POLITICIZE REFUGEE ISSUE

The Kabul government on Wednesday urged Islamabad not to politicize a humanitarian issue, in response to its one-month ultimatum for Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan.

Abdullah Abdullah, chief executive of the National Unity Government (NUG), directed the relevant Afghan authorities to stay in close coordination with their Pakistani counterparts and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to ensure that the rights of the refugees are protected.

In a statement, Abdullah underlined the need for the complete execution of an agreement between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the UN Refugee Agency in this matter.

Last week, in a meeting chaired by Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in capital Islamabad, it was decided that the validity of the Afghan refugees' residency documents, called Proof of Registration cards, would only be extended for 30 days -- after which they would have to return to their home country.

The issue will be raised with the UN Refugee Agency and the international community, said a statement released after the meeting. "Pakistan's economy has carried the burden of hosting Afghan refugees since long and in the present circumstances it cannot sustain it further," it added.

Kabul sees this move as a pressure tactic by Pakistan against the war-ravaged country.

Afghan Minister of Refugees and Repatriation Syed Hussain Alami Balkhi told a cabinet meeting in Kabul on Tuesday that Islamabad's unilateral decision was against the previously reached agreement between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the UN Refugee Agency.

More than 2.4 million Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan, often occupying bottom-rung jobs, while 4.2 million have been repatriated since 2002, according to the UN.

Pakistan's move comes as the U.S. -- currently fighting its war on terror in Afghanistan -- suspended military aid to Islamabad, accusing it of harboring terrorists who attack foreign troops in Afghanistan. Kabul echoes the stance.

Islamabad denies the charge, saying it has borne the brunt of the war in Afghanistan.

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