The top United Nations officials for refugees today welcomed Pakistan’s decision to extend the validity of official identification cards for 1.7 million registered Afghans whose cards had expired at the end of December 2009.
“This is clearly welcome. Pakistan remains host to the largest refugee population in the world and its continuing generosity in response to the uprooted is vital,” said António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The Pakistani Government yesterday endorsed a new Strategy for the Management of Afghans in Pakistan, which includes the extension until the end of 2012 of Proof of Registration (PoR) cards.
Pakistan has registered Afghan citizens living in Pakistan since 2006, providing them with official identification.
The existing PoR cards, which expired on 31 December last year, will be replaced with new cards with enhanced identification features.
Special arrangements will be made for unregistered Afghans, and for business people, students and families headed by women who have lost male breadwinners
The new strategy also extends the Tripartite Commission Agreement between UNHCR, Pakistan and Afghanistan for another three years, which outlines the gradual repatriation of Afghans.
More than 3.5 million Afghans have returned home from Pakistan with UNHCR's help since 2002.
Noting longer-term problems such as environmental degradation and the rehabilitation of infrastructure and social services, Mr. Guterres called on the international community for financial support of its strained resources.
“Funding needs to be commensurate with the generosity shown by Pakistan over the past three decades,” Mr. Guterres said.
He added that UNHCR would remain committed to continuing its work with the Governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to find lasting solutions for Afghan refugees.