ISLAMABAD - In the wake of joint repatriation initiatives, the Government of Pakistan and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are reportedly on the same page regarding the repatriation of Afghan refugees back to their homeland. Perhaps realising its traditional apathy towards the longstanding issue of Afghan refugees, the Pakistani government has finally shown seriousness to take pertinent initiatives in collaboration with UNHCR for the redressal of a problem that has adversely affected Pakistan, economically and security wise. On Friday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in the National Assembly that the war on terror had cost Pakistan massive economic losses and rapid deterioration in law and order situation. He had urged the Afghan refugees for repatriation to Afghanistan. The PM's statement correlates to the context of the newly devised Repatriation and Refugees Management Strategy introduced by the Government of Pakistan. The strategy involves the role of UNHCR in certain specified areas. Official sources say that the focus of this strategy is to repatriate a large number of registered Afghan refugees while bringing the remaining ones into the mainstream socio-economic set-up of Pakistan. The government seeks the direct assistance of UNHCR for the repatriation and rehabilitation of Afghan refugees while the implementation of other key proposed initiatives in the strategy like border surveillances, visa regimes, issuance of work permits and students scholarships lies with the government. Last month, Pakistan's Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) and UNHCR had announced the formation of six subcommittees in this regard. These subcommittees that are currently reported to be in the process of formation, would monitor repatriation and reintegration, visa and legal residence consideration, border management, exit/entry regime, protection and third country resettlement, bilateral/trilateral consultations and the development in refugees affected areas. Moreover, the UNHCR resumes Afghan refugees' repatriation from Tuesday. The seven-month repatriation programme (March to October), under the umbrella of Tripartite Agreement on voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees, would facilitate the return of the registered Afghans. The UNHCR says that any specified figure regarding the expected number of Afghans to be repatriated this year cannot be given at this point but considering that around 109,000 registered Afghans had returned to homeland last year, the rough estimates indicate that more or less 100,000 refugees may repatriate this year. "Once the repatriation process starts, the repatriation trends of refugees would determine their annual turnout. Presently, there are 1.3 million registered Afghans and considering the newborns babies, the number may increase to 1.36 million or above. The UNHCR would compile the related data after February 28, the last date for renewal of Proof of Registration (PoR) cards," UNHCR spokesperson Dunia Aslam Khan told The Nation. She said that refugees' return was voluntary as per Tripartite Agreement signed between UNHCR, Pakistan and Afghanistan. To a query, she said that UNHCR, Pakistani Government and Afghanistan's Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation were working in close coordination regarding Afghan refugees repatriation. An official statement of UNHCR urges Afghans who have not renewed their expired Proof of Registration (PoR) cards as yet to immediately approach the nearest PoR card renewal centres and get their cards renewed. In order to avoid the 'recyclers', UNHCR introduces de-registration of PoR cards at Voluntary Repatriation Centres (VRCs) in Peshawar and Quetta and iris (eye scanning) verification tests to determine if the Afghan refugees have already received UNHCR cash assistance of $ 150 besides ensuring that those repatriated refugees who returned to Pakistan, could be tracked down.