ISLAMABAD - US Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Alice Wells Tuesday called on Minister for SAFRON and Narcotics Control Shehryar Khan Afridi to discuss ongoing Afghan peace process and safe repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan.

US Ambassador Paul Jones also participated in the meeting.

A statement issued by the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) said matters relating to overall regional security situation, Afghan peace dialogue, and Afghan refugee policy, refugees’ welfare, as well as their reparation plan came under discussion during the meeting.

The US delegation assured the minister of the continued contribution and support of the US government for the Afghan refugees with same spirit and commitment.

Alice Wells also appreciated and acknowledged Pakistan’s continued and generous support and hospitality of millions of Afghan refugees over the past forty years. She said that the US government also acknowledges Pakistan’s support in hosting the protracted refugee population despite its financial constraints and limitations.

US lauds Pakistan’s support and hospitality to millions of Afghans

She hoped that the refugees’ reparation would be done in a peaceful and dignified manner, keeping in view the prevailing situation in Afghanistan.

Wells also discussed the prospects of issuance of visa and passports to different Afghan segments presently living in Pakistan and encouraged government of Pakistan to explore and avail the economic contribution of Afghan refugees towards Pakistani economy.

Shehryar Afridi, while appreciating the consistent support of USA both in diplomatic area as well as in financial terms, said that Afghan refugees were being provided with the best possible treatment during their temporary stay in Pakistan.

“The exemplary relations between the host communities and Afghan refugees could best be explained as no untoward incident has ever taken place during the past forty years of stay of refugees in Pakistan,” said the minister.

Afridi conveyed the concerns of government of Pakistan to the US government over dwindling international support and burden sharing of refugee hosting by the world community which further burdens Pakistan’s fragile economy.

“Due to the dwindling international support for refugees, the public services in education and health sectors are under stress. Thus, generous and predictable contribution would be required from both traditional and non-traditional donors. To meet the rising financial resources, combined and concerted effort needs to be initiated by all stakeholders through the UNHCR,” the minister observed.

Afridi also expressed concerns over the new global approach of combining humanitarian and development assistance for refugee population along with mainstreaming policy in education and health sectors.

“Under the dwindling financial situation, Pakistan’s education, health, and economic/financial sectors would face extreme stress as catering for our own population is already a great challenge and a gigantic task,” he said and added that the world needed to play its role in sharing the refugee burden.

Both the sides agreed to regularly meet and exchange views on the important issues which not only would be helpful for the refugees in their temporary stay and their repatriation to their home while it would also benefit the host communities.