ISLAMABAD -  The federal cabinet Wednesday gave 60-day extension in the Proof of Registration Cards for Afghan refugees, as Pakistan and Afghanistan struggle to improve ties.

The cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi decided that the PoRs would be valid until the end of March.

“The cabinet approved grant of 60 days extension in the Proof of Registration Cards for Afghan refugees,” said a statement, released after the meeting.

The validity of legal refugee status for many Afghan refugees expired on January 31.  This threw into doubt the future of around a million refugees who had been living in Pakistan for decades. Pakistan has extended the validity of PoR for the refugees at least six times in the past.  The last time, the extension was granted only for a month. This was the shortest extension ever granted.

The 60-day generous extension came as Afghan Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak and National Directorate of Security chief Mohamed Masoom Stanekzai visited Pakistan to discuss bilateral ties.

Earlier, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohamed Faisal said Pakistan’s efforts towards peace were awaiting reciprocal actions from the Afghan side in terms of clearance of vast stretches of ungoverned spaces on the Afghan side, bilateral border management, repatriation of Afghan refugees, controlling poppy cultivation, drug trafficking and initiating Afghan-led and owned political reconciliation in Afghanistan.

He said working towards enduring peace required mutual respect and trust along with patience and persistence.

“Emergence of new and more deadly groups such as Daesh in Afghanistan call[s] for enhancing international cooperation. Arbitrary deadlines, unilateral pronouncements and shifting goalposts are counterproductive in addressing common threats,” Faisal said.

He said Pakistan had also been stressing the need of early repatriation of Afghan refugees, as their presence in Pakistan helped Afghan terrorists to melt and morph among them.  “Such unilateral actions are detrimental to the spirit of cooperation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism,” the spokesperson said.

The cabinet also approved extension of Prime Minister’s Fee Reimbursement Scheme for less-developed areas. “Chairman HEC [Higher Education Commission] informed the cabinet that the scheme would be extended to 114 districts in various parts of the country including Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, south Punjab, the Fata [Federally-Administrated Tribal Areas], Gilgit-Baltistan and [the] AJK [Azad Jammu and Kashmir],” said the statement.

Appointment of Protector of Emigrants, Rawalpindi and Peshawar was also approved by the cabinet, it said.

The meeting approved the Memorandum of Understanding between the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Pakistan Meteorological Department to promote science technology and innovation cooperation.

The MoU between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan and Republic of Sao Tome and Principe on bilateral consultation was also approved.

The meeting gave approval for signing of executive programme of cultural agreement between Pakistan and the China for the year 2018-2022. The meeting ratified the decisions taken by the Cabinet Committee on Energy in its meeting held on December 12, 2017.  It also ratified the decisions taken by the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet in its meeting held on December 29, 2017.  The meeting ratified the decision taken by the ECC of the cabinet in its meeting held on January 5, 2018.