The Fifth Round of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Bilateral Dialogue was held in Islamabad on May 20-21 under the umbrella theme of “Finding a Sustainable Solution to a Human Crisis: Unravelling the Pak-Afghan Paradigm”.

An eleven member Afghan delegation led by Mr. Mohammad Yousuf Sabir, Member of Parliament, took part in the deliberations. The other members of the delegation included Rohullah Hashimi, Sajad Wafa, Nasir Ahmad Haidarzai, Enayatullah Mudaris, Mohammad Musa Mahmadi, Mujtaba Ayan, Mureed Khawas, Raz Mohammad and Baryali Miakhel.

The Pakistan delegation comprised Raoof Hasan, Afrasiab Khattak, Rustam Shah Mohmand, Aziz Ahmad Khan, Ayaz Wazir, Admiral (R) Fasih Bokhari, Fauzia Nasreen, Nasim Zehra, Dr. Ijaz Khan, Nasreen Ghufran, Shirin Gul Sadozai, Saroop Ijaz, Poonam Ayub, Aimal Khan, Nazish Brohi, Owais Touhid, Ismail Khan and Shala A. Hasan.

The Dialogue was inaugurated by the Advisor on Foreign Relations Mr. Sartaj Aziz.

Three working sessions were held on may 20 discussing the themes of “The status of refugees amidst a legal vacuum”, “The societal challenges faced by the refugees and the local population and their multi-faceted impact” and “Repatriation, relocation or integration: looking for sustainable solutions”.

The open session on May 21 debated the theme of “Political and strategic compulsions: incentive or impediment to the peace process”.

The Afghan side appreciated the holding of the bilateral and urged for continuation of the track-II diplomacy for improving relations among the two neighbouring countries.

After exhaustive discussions over two days, it was agreed that it was political will on the part of the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan that was most vital to the resolution of the predominantly humanitarian issue of the Afghan refugees.

It was also felt that the underlying reasons behind the mistrust encompassing the current unrest inside Afghanistan, the virtual fading away of the Quadrilateral Peace Process (QCG), the launch of the “Operation Omari” and its possible military and political consequences and Pakistan’s unchanged strategy in dealing with terror were only some of the reasons enhancing the trust deficit setting the two countries apart.

In order to resolve the Afghan refugees’/migration crisis, the delegates made the following specific recommendations:

  • The two governments should separate politics from the humanitarian crisis;
  • Asked the Government of Pakistan to expedite the process of registration of the refugees;
  • Urged the Government of Pakistan to extend the Proof of Registration (POR) cards up to the end of 2020;
  • A correct count of the Afghans residing in Pakistan should be undertaken as also their classification/s;
  • Urged the two governments not to use the crisis of refugees as a tool for pressurizing each other;
  • Voluntary repatriation should be the sole option available for sending the refugees back to Afghanistan;
  • Specific legislation and procedures should be enacted by the Government of Pakistan to naturalize the refugees/migrants;
  • Urged the civil society organizations and human rights bodies to play an active role in addressing the grave refugee and migration issues;
  • Access to justice and education should be ensured to the refugees and their children;
  • Effort should be made to induct the refugees/migrants as ambassadors of peace; and
  • A joint plan of action should be agreed upon by the two governments and the same presented at international forums for a peaceful and expeditious resolution of the refugee crisis.

It was agreed that tackling and resolving the humanitarian crisis of the Afghan refugees/migrants requires the two governments to work together closely in minimizing the gulf that currently separates their political and strategic objectives. This is the big challenge that the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan face and its early resolution should a priority consideration.