ISLAMABAD -  As the one-month extension in stay granted to the Afghan refugees is expiring by the end of this month, the federal government remains extremely tight-lipped whether to give another extension or find a way-out to repatriate them to their homeland in a dignified manner.

The federal cabinet, which met with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in the chair on January 3, granted a sixth time one-month extension to the Afghan refugees even though the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) had sought a one-year extension in the validity of the proof of registration (PoR) cards issued for the refugees.

The one-month stay was given to 1.4 million Afghan refugees after they consumed their legal residency status on December 31, 2017.

After the federal cabinet meeting, the government had said in a statement that “after a detailed discussion, the [federal] cabinet agreed to grant only 30 days' extension for PoR and also decided that the issue of early repatriation of Afghan refugees shall be raised with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and with the international community”.

It had further said that “the cabinet emphasized that Pakistan's economy has long carried the burden of hosting Afghan refugees and under the current circumstances cannot sustain it further”.

Pakistan hosts about 2.7 million registered and undocumented Afghan refugees who have fled their country bogged down in a decades-old conflict.

Pakistan has long been seeking international backing especially from the United States and the European Union for repatriating the Afghan refugees , who, Islamabad believes, are fast becoming a security risk.

Pakistan believes that militants conducting terrorist attacks on both sides of the border are using refugee camps and localities as hideouts.

The US, however, does not seem to be ready to subscribe to Islamabad’s point of view on the issue and instead has intensified its diplomatic row with Pakistan with a New Year tweet by US President Donald Trump which further added fuel to the tension.

In his tweet, Trump had alleged that “Pakistan received more than $33 billion in US aid in the last 15 years but continues to harbor terrorists fighting American forces in Afghanistan”.

Islamabad rejected the charges and called them an attempt to scapegoat it for what it called the "failure" of the US military mission in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, it is learnt reliably that Afghan diplomats in Islamabad have stepped up their efforts to persuade Pakistani authorities for granting another one-year extension to the registered Afghan refugees . According to sources, the efforts from Afghan diplomats have picked up the pace after Pakistan’s decision to send all the refugees to Afghanistan by January 31.

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif told a news channel last month that Afghan militants had “entered the camps of Afghan refugees and they keep on changing positions and relocating.”

He had also called for the repatriation of the refugees and pushed the Trump administration to finance, at least in part, the repatriation and resettlement of refugees in Afghanistan.

Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa at a recent meeting told Centcom Commander Gen Joseph Votel that “Pakistan is undertaking multiple actions through operation Raddul Fasaad to deny any residual capacity to terrorists of all hue and colour and in return, (the repatriation) of Afghan refugees is an essential prerequisite.”

Official estimates show that over 2.5 million Afghan nationals, including 1.4 million registered refugees, are living in the country.

In addition, the government has registered 700,000 undocumented Afghans during a six-month-long campaign that began in last August.