President Dr Arif Alvi has said Pakistan and Afghanistan have the potential to become a “geo-economic and geo-strategic hub” for the region due to their unique location.
“The geo-economic and geo-strategic hub [comprising the two countries] can allow goods to move from the Central Asia towards the sea, and vice versa,” Dr Alvi said on Friday in a virtual address to a high-level consultation on return and reintegration of the Afghan refugees held in Geneva.
“Pakistan has set aside almost one billion dollars to help the transition of Afghanistan for a prosperous future, which could prove beneficial to both the countries,” he added.
The president said the on-ground development plans in Afghanistan are important for incorporation of the Afghan refugees. “Pakistan is ready to assist Afghanistan in its rebuilding and also help reintegration of millions of refugees into their society through skill development,” he said.
Dr Alvi said Pakistan, for the last 40 years, has been hosting a sizable number of Afghan refugees on its soil and could further help Afghans in learning skills required to rebuild their country.
“The Afghan refugees, who are staying 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.
He commended the work done by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for the rehabilitation of Afghan refugees. He also praised the efforts put in by UNHCR incumbent head Filippo Grandi and his predecessor Antonio Guterres.
The president said the people of Afghanistan have the final authority to decide about their political and economic governance.
He congratulated the Afghans, their government and the Taliban for coming together and moving towards a peace process, which “has its own dynamism of dividends for the people of Afghanistan”.
Calling it a “very important and golden period”, he said opportunities are emerging in the shape of prospects for peace and security in Afghanistan.
“After Afghanistan, Pakistan is the second most-affected country that suffered the devastation of Afghan war for four decades. Similarly, peace in Afghanistan would also be benefiting Pakistan.”
He recalled that all circles in Pakistan, whether political or people, never opposed hosting Afghan refugees. “Never has there 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 consultation, titled “Return and reintegration: Building a future for all Afghans” was organized by the UNHCR in the lead-up to the Afghanistan Conference 2020, being held in Geneva on Nov 23-24.
The main objective of the consultation was to ensure that the return and reintegration of Afghan refugees is 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 the promotion of the Afghan peace process.