One side effect of the recent barbaric attack in Paris has been that EU countries that were already feeling deluged with refugees, arriving on their doorsteps, have garnered strong support to tighten their borders. Austria and Slovenia are talking about setting up border fences and Hungary has already set up a razor wire fence several weeks ago. Angela Merkel’s hitherto brave stance on accepting refugees is under pressure both from other European countries as well as from her conservative alliance, her party, CDU’s popularity has dropped to 36 percent, its lowest level in the past 3 years. Furthermore, the municipalities taking refugees are protesting that they are unable to cope with the numbers.

In the last few days, the otherwise bankrupt Europe has coughed up over $3bn to give to Turkey to stem the flow of refugees to Europe; the only point of contention being whether Turkey will get this every year or if this amount is for the next 2 years. The Europeans have also bribed Turkey with talk of fresh negotiations on its ever-illusory dream to join the EU. These are the very countries after killing millions of Jews in concentration camps signed up to the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, created initially for the European refugees; witness the famous photo circulating on social media of a ship full of swarming European refugees.

Other side of the continent, the ‘Super Power’ that has created this chaos and mess in Iraq and Syria is taking a measly 10,000 Syrian refugees; even more disgraceful, is the legislation that has been passed by the House and approved by 289 legislators versus 137 opposing, to get every single refugee asylum application from Syria & Iraq, certified that they pose no threat. Every application – including that of a child - has to be endorsed; by the director of FBI, Secretary of the Department of Homeland and the Director of National Intelligence before approval to come to the USA can be granted.

Pakistan, which is not a signatory to the 1951 UN convention, has hosted the largest number of refugees in the world for the longest period, for over 35 years – these are currently estimated at around 3m people; of which around 1.7m are registered and another 1.3m plus are unregistered Afghans. At the peak of the crisis, we had over 4m registered Afghans living in Pakistan. If we add up the numbers that UNHCR has been releasing to Pakistan to take care of the refugees over the last 3 decades they would not even touch the $3bn level now.

Pakistan has provided them with free abode, health and education facilities, which Iran by 2004, said it could no longer afford over such protracted period and started to charge a service fee from refugees for these facilities. Abdul Qadir Baloch, Minister for States & Frontier has put the total cost to Pakistan at over $200bn; no doubt, hosting these refugees has exacted a huge toll on Pakistani society especially on the two provinces, KPK and Baluchistan, where over 85 percent of the refugees reside.

Sadly, there has been very little discussion in Pakistan about the target date, 31 December 2015, when all registered Afghan refugees were supposed to be voluntarily repatriated back, for which the Afghan government has asked for its fourth extension by another two years. It is a particularly important topic, in light of the persistent icy relations that exist between the two countries and the lack of tangible appreciation by the Afghan government and people of Afghanistan of the turmoil that has been created in Pakistan, by hosting so many refugees for such a long period. On a side note, when it is acknowledged, it is attributed to the individual ‘Pashtun or Pakistani brother’s warmth and hospitality’ and not to Pakistan, yet no one attributes such curtsey to the ‘German brother’ in that case it is Germany extending its goodwill. Afghanis need to acknowledge to themselves that it is ‘Pakistan’ that has taken care of their people- the refugees.

Pakistanis should have the right to have a full discourse on the pros and cons of hosting the refugees – not that unbeknownst to us the government extends the deadline with no clear idea on the issue except to delay addressing it once again. It is the people of Pakistan that have seen changes in their society as a result of these huge numbers of refugees, that brought with them their conservative social and religious culture along with Kalashnikovs’; opium smuggling from across the border that created over 1m opiate drug abusers since 1979.

And of late intelligence agencies claims that foreign agencies are using Afghans for creating havoc in Pakistan; citing that 90 percent of all terrorist incidents in Pakistan are from Afghans coming from refugee camps. It is then no surprise that recently the Chief Minister of Baluchistan has been reported as saying that they need to go home.

Having said this, we should extend the deadline, both on humanitarian and political grounds, and at the same time recognize that for many Afghanis, Afghanistan is no longer home. The majority of Afghan refugees are now second and third generation immigrants, born in Pakistan – they have little or no ties back in Afghanistan. Like all human beings they want a secure life where they can work to improve their economic welfare and live safely. They are an asset for us both economically and politically to improve ties with Afghanistan. We need to ensure that all refugees are not punished for the sake of the few criminal elements in their community. The government needs to conduct another registration drive so that the unregistered refugees are also assured that they will not be persecuted or harassed; once they have the proper documents, they be allowed to work legally and be incorporated officially into the tax and business cycles. We need to consider granting nationality to those that are born in Pakistan and those that have lived here over a predetermined number of years. At this point any policy the government makes should not waste all the goodwill it generated having hosted the refugees for decades.