ISLAMABAD  - The draft national security policy formulated by the Interior Ministry lacks an elaborate roadmap for safe repatriation of Afghan refugees to their homeland by 2015 thus leaving Pakistan with limited options including granting its citizenship to major chunk of refugee population.

Background discussions and interviews with diplomats, senior government and UNHCR officials suggest that Pakistan despite a major shift from an open-door policy to that of closed door towards refugees from Afghanistan may end up as last resort to legalizing status of Afghan refugees to Pakistani citizens.

According to the sources, a large number of Afghan refugees have left their camps and settled in the urban centers of Pakistan ostensibly to avoid poverty and security in Afghanistan and they have shown reluctance to go back to their homes.

The sources said that Pakistan despite repeated requests to the Afghan government and ISAF for creating conducive conditions for the repatriation of Afghan refugees but in vain and most of them returned again to Pakistan in the course of US-led war against terror.

“Majority of Afghan refugees who have repatriated to their homeland since 2002 have managed their re-entry into Pakistan and are now living in urban centers of Pakistan,” the sources said, fearing that such refugee population most ethnic Pukhtoon would mix up with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from FATA and Swat and Malakand region who have also settled in the cities.

They were of the view that these people would not easily leave the cities because of their huge financial investments in real estate and other business by securing Pakistani Identity Cards and travel documents.

“They are well settled now and consolidated their legal status for Pakistani citizenship by entering into inter-marriages with Pakistanis,” a senior government official told The Nation.

The sources believed that Pakistan would have to go through a time consuming exercise to identify Afghan refugees in the country who have been changing their locations from one place to another after leaving their camps.

“The US-led war against terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s military operations in Swat and Malakand and FATA since 2008 have complicated the Afghan refugees problem in Pakistan,” the official said, adding that has added to increase crimes but pose serious challenge to the country’s national security regime.

The sources feared that presence of such a huge population of Afghan refugees in Pakistan would further complicate the situation after withdrawal of international security forces from Afghanistan by 2014.

They believed that owning to the fast changing geo-political dynamics in the region, India and other major powers including the western countries would be exploiting the fragile situation if Pakistan failed to repatriate all the Afghan refugees to Afghanistan before 2015.

Some sources were pessimistic that those Afghan refugees who had left their camps in FATA and settled districts of Pakistan and had moved to the cities were actually the segment of Afghan refugees population that is reluctant to go back to Afghanistan.

The issue of Afghan refugees has become a serious discussion between Islamabad and Kabul but there no valuable efforts to resolve the decades old issue and Islamabad fears that this would complicate the problem if Afghan authorities fail to create conducive conditions for safe repatriation of Afghan refugees following the withdrawal of ISAF troops later this year and within the renewed repatriation timeline that 2015.

On its part the PML-N government has decided to keep strict vigilance on registered Afghan refugees as well as those living illegally in Pakistan to bring all of them back to book and negotiate with new Afghan government an elaborate roadmap for their repatriation by 2015.

On the other hand, critics say that Pakistan’s efforts would not likely to bear fruits because of the serious regional security issues as well as lack of proper data bank that could help Pakistani authorities to track down the Afghan refuges and send them back.

They believed that in view of the fragile security situation in the region as well as Pakistan’s capacity to resolve the refugees problem would lead eventually leave Pakistan with option giving all the Afghan refugees now settled mostly in urban areas its citizenship.