PESHAWAR - Speakers at a seminar observed on Saturday that the government had always been neglecting Afghan refugees in provision of their basic rights, as out of 2.9 million Afghan refugees, currently residing in Pakistan, only 0.7 million were registered.

They said it meant that they were not being treated as per the laws of the country. The seminar titled “The Role of Media in Providing Decent Work Opportunities to Afghan Refugees,” was held under the auspices of International Labor Organisation (ILO) here. Senior programme officer of ILO Saif Ullah Chaudhry, president of All Pakistan Labour Federation, Sultan Mehmood Khan, UNHCR associate protection officer Arbab Muhammad Tahir and Joint Director Labor Government of Baluchistan Abdul Khaliq Doltani were among the participants of the seminar. The seminar was attended by a large number of journalists and society workers.

The speakers said Pakistan allowed 150,000 unskilled Afghan refugees to prolong their stay in the country through an agreement with Afghanistan and UNHCR. Over one million refugees repatriated in 2004. Of then, 80 per cent returned to Pakistan due to the law and order situation in their country. The people of Afghanistan continue to be victims of gross violations of human rights and persistent breaches of international humanitarian law.

Saif ullah Chaudhry said that among 2.9 million Afghan refugees, only 0.7 million are registered with the government of Pakistan. He disclosed these Afghan citizens are not treated accordion to the Pakistani laws, resultantly they are deprived of even their basic rights. He said that Pakistan was a signatory of ILO convention relating to the basic human rights. He was of the view that there was no law or framework in the country which can differentiate between refugees and other foreign nationals residing in Pakistan.” ILO conventions and treaties guarantee foreigner workers and other migrants”, he elaborated. He said that Pakistan is bound to implement ILO conventions and treaties relating to the foreigner workers. Addressing the participants, Sultan Mehmood Khan said Afghan citizens in Pakistan are playing a key role in fulfilling the labor needs of the country. He opined that in case Afghan refugees are departed, Pakistan will face an acute shortage of readily available skilled and cheap labor. He dispelled the impression that Afghan citizens have put bad impact on Pakistan’s economy, politics, Society, environment and law and order situation. He said that in fact Pakistan is lucky enough in availing the cheap labor in shape of Afghans. This has also provided an opportunity to present a better image of Pakistan at international level.

“Pakistan should treat equally with skilled and unskilled Afghan citizens as he is the signatory of ILO Conventions”, Arbab Muhammad Tahir revealed.

Abdul Khaliq Doltani said that Afghan labor were playing key role in uplifting the Pakistani economy. He stressed the need to the law of social security equally to the Afghan labor. He also appealed that they should be given equal opportunities of development, social respect and freedom of expression as well.

Director Afghan Refugees Organizations Major Farzand Ali said that it was our duty to give all rights to Afghan refugees. He said that forced and child labor and other discriminatory laws with regard to Afghan nationals in Pakistan needs to be abolished.