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Pakistan Cabinet Approves 1-Year Extension for Registered Afghan Refugees’ Stay

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Cabinet of Pakistan has approved a one-year extension for the stay of registered Afghan refugees residing legally in the country.

In an official statement issued today, it was announced, “The federal cabinet approved a one-year extension of the validity of PoR (Proof of Registration) cards of 1.45 million Afghan refugees. Their PoR cards have been expired on June 30, 2024. The extension has been granted until June 30, 2025.”

Proof of Registration (PoR) cards are crucial identity documents held by registered Afghan refugees, facilitating their legal residence in Pakistan. Additionally, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has noted that over 800,000 Afghan refugees possess Afghan citizenship cards.

Last October, the caretaker government initiated the repatriation of Afghan refugees residing illegally in Pakistan, citing security concerns. Since November 1, over 500,000 undocumented Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan, according to statistics from the Interior Ministry.

Pakistan has faced criticism from several countries, including the US, UK, and Afghanistan, regarding the repatriation process. However, Pakistan has clarified that only Afghan nationals residing illegally have been deported to address rising criminal activities.

The federal cabinet’s decision follows a meeting between UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad. Grandi expressed satisfaction that the “Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan” has been suspended and sought assurances of its continuation from Pakistan.

In a separate decision, the federal cabinet also approved an action plan for the abolition of the Pakistan Public Works Department (Pak PWD). This includes the establishment of a Pakistan Infrastructure Development Company to oversee federal development projects, as well as an Asset and Facility Management Company for repair and maintenance tasks.

Under the plan, federal government projects currently managed by Pak PWD will be transferred to relevant provincial departments. The transition will involve the computerization of all PWD properties’ records within two weeks, marking a significant step towards modernizing infrastructure management in Pakistan.

Furthermore, the cabinet was briefed on the committee’s progress aimed at reducing the government’s administrative footprint. This committee is set to present proposals for the closure or merger of unnecessary departments within various ministries by early August, following consultations with relevant stakeholders.

The decisions underscore Pakistan’s commitment to managing refugee issues while modernizing its infrastructure and streamlining government operations to enhance efficiency and accountability.

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