PESHAWAR: With the Americans headed home, the residents of Afghanistan are on the verge of a humanitarian crisis due to the increasing political instability.
As things stand, around 0.27 millions Afghans are projected to be displaced and the number is expected to grow.
Sources familiar with the development indicate that as a response to averting a potential crisis, officials in the newly merged KP districts have proposed a contingency plan for hosting Afghan refugees.
The refugees will be allowed to enter Pakistan from Pak-Afghan border crossings at Torkham, Chaman, Ghulam Khan and Arandu and will reside at four refugee camps in three districts – Khyber, North Waziristan, and Chitral.
A senior official, who was not entitled to speak directly to the media, said a camp was also planned for Quetta division in Balochistan.
The proposed contingency plan prepared locally reportedly reflects that refugees will be restricted to camps. Qaisar Khan Afridi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Pakistan spokesperson was of the view that this was possible initially but was not feasible permanently since it was not a sustainable option for displacement on a larger scale.
“Apart from 70pv registered Afghan refugees living with host communities in Pakistan, some 96 per cent of refugees in Iran live in villages, towns, and cities side by side with the host communities and are contributing to local economies,” Afridi said, indicating the need to merge the displaced Afghans into the national economy at some point in time.
Apart from plans by Pakistani officials since Pakistan is the nearest possible destination for the fleeing Afghan nationals, UNHCR also expects a significant number of Afghan nationals to likely leave the country if the situation worsens in Afghanistan and has called upon Pakistan to remain the torchbearer.
“UNHCR stands ready to assist national authorities in scaling up humanitarian assistance as required,” Afridi told The Express Tribune.
With over 65 per cent of the Afghan population in and outside Afghanistan mostly children and youngsters, the UN body hopes peace prevails in the neighboring country, it however is concerned over the rising violence in Afghanistan and is ready to support Pakistan in case of influx of Afghan refugees.
“A quick response to any major influx [sharing the responsibility and sustained support from the international community] must be immediately followed following displacement in order to help Pakistan manage the crisis,” said Afridi. However, Afridi added that it was difficult for Pakistan to carry on with the international obligations alone since Pakistan was already hosting Afghan refugees for over 40 years.