Pakistan ready to assist Afghanistan in rebuilding, refugees’ reintegration: President

President Dr Arif Alvi on Friday said Pakistan was ready to assist Afghanistan in its rebuilding and also help reintegration of millions of refugees into their society through skill learning.

The president, in his virtual address to the High-Level Consultation on return and reintegration of the Afghan refugees held in Geneva, said on-ground development plans in Afghanistan were important for incorporation of the Afghan refugees.

The consultation, on subject of ‘Return and reintegration: Building a future for all Afghans’ was organized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the lead-up to the Afghanistan Conference 2020, being held in Geneva on November 23-24.

President Alvi said Pakistan, for last 40 years, had been hosting a sizeable number of Afghan refugees on its soil and offered that it could further help Afghans in learning skills required to rebuild their country.

He expressed satisfaction that the Afghan refugees, who stayed in Pakistan for two or three generations, would be returning to their homeland with a lot of skills, including entrepreneurship expertise learnt in Pakistan.

He said Pakistan had set aside almost a billion dollars to help transition of Afghanistan for a prosperous future, which could prove beneficial to both the countries.

He emphasized that Pakistan and Afghanistan had the potential to become a ‘geo-economic and geo-strategic hub’ allowing goods to move from Central Asia through Afghanistan into Pakistan and towards the sea, and vice versa.

He said the people of Afghanistan had the final authority to decide about their political and economic governance.

The president commended the work done by the UNHCR for the rehabilitation of Afghan refugees, including by its incumbent head Filippo Grandi and his predecessor Antonio Guterres.

President Alvi congratulated the Afghans, their government and the Taliban for coming together and moving towards a peace process, which he said “had its own dynamism of dividends for the people of Afghanistan”.

He said Pakistan played an important role in resumption of peace process in Afghanistan.

Calling it a “very important and golden period”, he said opportunities were coming across in the shape of prospects for peace and security in Afghanistan.

After Afghanistan, he said, Pakistan was the second most-affected country that suffered the devastation of Afghan war for four decades.

“Similarly, the benefits of peace in Afghanistan would also be benefiting Pakistan,” he added.

He recalled that all circles in Pakistan, whether political or general masses, never opposed the hosting of Afghan refugees. “Never has been any voice within Pakistan that the Afghan refugees should be sent back, but with dignity,” he said.

He expressed confidence that the conference would prove as a peace-building effort “beyond the ending of war and entrenching of peace within the Afghan society”.

The main objective of the high-level consultation was to ensure that the return and reintegration of Afghan refugees was included in the Afghan peace process as well as in Afghanistan’s development plans.

The event highlighted the need for continued support to the Afghan refugees and the host communities.

The high-level segment featured video statements of Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and United States Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. The UNHCR head Filippo Grandi also addressed the event.

The participants highly appreciated the hospitality and protection extended by Pakistan to the Afghan refugees for the last 41 years. They also lauded Pakistan’s positive and key role in promotion of the Afghan peace process.

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