ISLAMABAD: Hosting a sizeable number of Afghan refugees that is more than three million for a long period of about four decades reflects Pakistan's goodwill gesture towards Afghanistan and its nationals.

Pakistan has so far spent approximately, over 100 billion dollars on provision of facilities to the Afghan refugees that encompass health, education, shelter and food. Henceforth, Pakistan has produced thousands of doctors, engineers, lawyers and skilled workers from amongst the refugees.

"I was born here in Pakistan and got education. Now I am doing a job in a private engineering office. I think it is honour for me but my family wants to go back to their home country - so I would like to deliver the services in Afghanistan," said Abdullah Khan, an Afghan refugee.

"Pakistan is a great brotherly country of Afghanistan," he said, and added that thousands of people got the technical, professional and skilled education and were delivering their services back in their homeland and playing role in the development of the country. He said they were seven siblings and with the blessing of God all were well educated and by the next year they would go back to their hometown.

Nasarullah Khan, a vendor at Pirwadhi, said that most of his family members have returned to Afghanistan because the environment of peace was better as compared to the past decades. So there were many opportunities for the labourers, skilled workers and professionals in Afghanistan.

Despite limited resources, Pakistan as a Muslim brotherly country of Afghanistan has played a vital role in accommodating the Afghan refugees throughout their troubled time for about 37 years. Pakistan allowed them to mix with local population. The refugees are predominantly ethnic Pashtunes and merged well with local Pashtun people.

Pakistan has provided space to Afghan refugees in residential areas. They were also provided with shelter, food, health, education, business opportunities, and access to other amenities of life. The border between the two countries remained open for welcoming the refugees since 1979. After their arrival, the refugees started living in the different parts of Pakistan, especially Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces.

The refugees entered through the Torkham border near Peshawar and Chaman border near Quetta. With the support of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), two major camps were also established for the registration process of the refugees. One camp was setup at Jalozai in Noshera district and other was established in Baleli area of Balochistan.

Due to the limited resources, Pakistan in general and the two provinces were badly affected economically and socially after a huge migration of the Afghan refugees. According to the UNHCR data, 1.9 million refugees were registered while the same number was un-registered the refugees. Almost a generation of the Afghan refugees has grown up in Pakistan and knows very little about their own home country - Afghanistan.

Around 1.3 million registered refugees are living in different parts of the country, while around 33 percent Proof of Registration (PoR) holders are living in the camps and 67 percent living off-camps, 74 percent children of refugees born in Pakistan whereas 70 per cent are under age 24. Recently, the Ministry of SAFRON called a meeting of political parties on the issue of repatriation and management policy for the refugees.

After the attack on the Army Public School (APS) and the Mardan University, it has been ground that Afghans were involved in this heinous act, said Pervaiz Khattak, the chief minister of the Pakhtunkhwa. In the current situation, Pakistan is not in a position to further extend time to the Afghan refugees due to rise in ratio in unemployment, overloaded health and the education sector.

The country has demanded from the international community for peaceful repatriation of the refugees as in major parts of Afghanistan peace has been restored. The government of Pakistan has already held several dialogues with the Afghan government for the safe return of the refugees and President Ashraf Ghani has taken the repatriation process positively and has promised that Afghanistan will accommodate its refugees in different phases.

In this regard, the Embassy of Afghanistan is playing a vital role and holding meetings with the elder of the Afghan refugees for the voluntarily repatriation. The embassy has also launched a campaign with the slogan of Khpal watan, gul watan (One's own country is like flower) for attracting the refugees for peaceful return. The Afghan government is providing agriculture land and other facilities to the returned refugees in the provinces of Jalalabad and Qandhar.

All political parties are on one page and wanted the early, safe, respectful and peaceful repatriation of all refugees, and have proposed to extend the date of voluntarily repatriation till December 31, 2017.