ISLAMABAD -  The United States Thursday recognised Pakistan’s generosity to host millions of the Afghan refugees for decades.

United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Nancy Izzo Jackson appreciated Pakistan for hosting one of the largest, most-protracted refugee populations in the world for nearly forty years. 

Speaking at a media roundtable here, she encouraged Pakistan to work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Afghan government on a plan that supports voluntary, sustainable, and dignified repatriation of Afghan refugees.

Pakistan’s federal cabinet this week gave 60-day extension in the Proof of Registration Cards for Afghan Refugees. The PoR - that expired on January 31 - will now be valid until the end of March. 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.

Nancy Izzo Jackson lauded the generous hosting of Afghan refugees by Pakistan for so many decades. She said that the United States was committed to support Pakistan on the issues of Afghan refugees.

Jackson said she will discuss the land allocation to Afghan refugees by Afghan government in her next visit to Kabul.

As the largest single-country contributor for humanitarian assistance in Pakistan and the region, since 2002 the US has provided, through UNHCR and other partners, nearly $2.9 billion to support Afghan refugees, returnees, affected Afghan populations, and the Pakistani communities and others who host them, said a US embassy statement.

While in Pakistan, Deputy Assistant Secretary Izzo Jackson held discussions with the Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch, Chief of General Staff Bilal Akbar, and other senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Interior and the UNHCR.  In addition, she met with Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Dr Omar Zakhilwal. 

Meanwhile yesterday, Special Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan Tasnim Aslam met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov in Moscow to discuss the Afghan issue.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation Khalilullah Qazi and Ambassador Zamir Kabulov, Special Representative of the Russian President on Afghanistan also attended the meeting, said a foreign ministry statement.

Bilateral and regional issues were discussed during the meeting. The focus of discussion was on Afghanistan, it added. “Both sides expressed satisfaction at the positive trajectory of bilateral relations and reiterated their resolve to further deepen cooperation between Pakistan and Russia in the fields of Trade, Energy, Defence, Education and other fields of mutual interest,” the statement said.

Special Secretary and Deputy Foreign Minister held in-depth discussions on the prevailing situation in Afghanistan and its implications for Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region, it said.

They reiterated there was no military solution to the Afghan problem and the negotiated settlement through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process was the only viable option for lasting peace in Afghanistan, the statement said.

 The Special Secretary informed the Deputy Foreign Minister about the measures taken by Pakistan for border management with Afghanistan and Pakistan’s continued commitment to combating terrorism despite having rendered enormous sacrifices and borne human and material losses.

The Special Secretary also highlighted the need for repatriation of more than 3 million Afghan refugees who have been availing Pakistan’s hospitality now for more than four decades.

The Russian side appreciated Pakistan’s commitment to fighting terrorism and expressed willingness to further strengthen cooperation and support Pakistan’s efforts to fight terrorism, the statement said.

Earlier, Special Secretary held a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov. Both sides discussed issues relating to the forthcoming meeting of the Financial Action Task Force, to be held in Paris on February 18-23.

The Special Secretary informed the Deputy Foreign Minister about the measures taken by Pakistan to implement its international obligations and intentions of some FATF Member States to use the forum for their political ends.

Separately, the inaugural round of Bilateral Political Consultations between Pakistan and Kyrgyz Republic was held in Bishkek. Pakistan delegation was headed by the Special Secretary Aitzaz Ahmed while the Kyrgyz Republic delegation was led by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nurlan Asiyinovich Abdrahmanov, a foreign ministry statement said yesterday.

The two sides discussed the evolving peace and security situation in the region. The Special Secretary briefed the Kyrgyz side on Pakistan’s efforts aimed at promoting peace and security in Afghanistan, Pakistan-India relations and human rights violations in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, said the statement. It was decided to hold the second round of consultations in Islamabad in 2019.