Return of refugees to yield long-term benefits: Zakhelwal

Dr.-Omar-ZakhilwalKABUL: President Ashraf Ghani’s Special Envoy and Ambassador to Pakistan Dr. Omar Zakhelwal on Saturday said the repatriation of Afghan refugees had political, economic and security advantages for Afghanistan.

During an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, he said tension between Kabul and Islamabad could not be reduced until the later brought changes to its policy toward the war-devastated country..

He claimed Pakistan suffered and paid a high price for its patchy relationship with Afghanistan this year. “We have now realised our weaknesses which are economic, transit route and refugees. Earlier, Islamabad used them as pressure buttons.”

The envoy said Kabul was working hard in these areas and would gradually resolve the issues to get rid of dependence on Pakistan. “We have strengthened economic relations with Central Asian states, and signed the Chabahar pact to find access to sea.”

According to the diplomat, the flow of refugees’ return from Pakistan had gained momentum and a large number of families have returned home in recent months.

The newly launched projects ‘Khpal Watan Gul Watan’ aimed at encouraging refugees to repatriate had positive results too, he added.

The envoy believed the return of Afghan refugees was in the interest of Afghans and Afghanistan and the drive would have long-term economic, political and security benefits for them.

He said as many 30 million people lived in Afghanistan and the return of two or three million more people would not have bad impact on current situations in the country.

Zalkhelwal suggested he would soon meet President Ashraf Ghani and would ask him to provide each returnee with a land plot.

He said some Taliban leaders had also contacted and told him they would return to Afghanistan and live a life of honour. “I welcome those Taliban leaders who want to reconcile and I assure them that they would enjoy all civil rights in the country.”

According to the envoy, earlier the Afghani migrants in Pakistan did not feel for the country, but now they had realised that they should live in dignity in their own country.

The ambassador said the stay of Afghan refugees in Pakistan was in Islamabad’s interest because it received billions of rupees in their gross domestic products (GDP) from refugees and also received aid.

About the peace process, he said Afghanistan had lost confidence in Pakistan, whose efforts to facilitate peace talks were not sincere. -(Pajhwok)

THE PASHTUN TIMES

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