ISLAMABAD - Pakistan yesterday said that Islamabad has been financing the needs of Afghan population in the country through its own resources without any discrimination.

Speaking at an international webinar on the ‘Situation of Refugees and Other Displaced Persons during the Pandemic: The Need for International Cooperation,’  Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi called for revalidating the principle of shared responsibility and burden sharing for the large refugee hosting countries like Pakistan.

The high-level webinar was hosted by the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to discuss the situation of refugees and displaced persons. He was joined by UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Foreign Ministers of Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, the former Austrian FM, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, and Deputy Director General of the World Health Organisation.

The Foreign Minister said Pakistan had been hosting millions of registered and unregistered Afghan refugees for the last four decades.

He said Pakistan, despite of financial constraints, offered a number of facilities like health, education, social mobility and opening up of bank accounts for Afghan refugees.

While sharing that Pakistan had provided protection, offered opportunities for education, health, livelihoods, vocational trainings, and social mobility to millions of Afghan refugees for over 4 decades, he added that the presence of 3 million Afghans was a clear illustration of Pakistani generosity, compassion and hospitality.

Foreign Minister Qureshi referred to the compassionate and holistic approach of the government of Pakistan to combat the impacts of COVID-19 including the $ 8 billion relief package announced by the Prime Minister Imran Khan. “No state can handle the magnitude of this crisis,” he added.

He presented a 7-point agenda to enable large refugee hosting countries to combat COVID-19 wherein he highlighted the need for adequate financing of UNHCR’s Refugee Response Plans; continuity of regular support for refugees to host countries; provision of “liquidity” and necessary fiscal space for large refugee hosting countries; supporting the services infrastructure in the host countries; immediate provision of medicines and equipment; equal treatment of protracted large refugee situations with the new emerging ones; ceasing of any hostilities or conflict, and ceasefire in the countries of origin of the refugees and continued work on creation of “pull” factors for return and reintegration of refugees.

FM Qureshi stressed that since the virus did not differentiate on the basis of nationalities, race, religion, ethnicity or colour, the international community especially the UN must not differentiate in different categories of Afghans in Pakistan in extending support.