The temporary extension of the PoR cards, which officially recognize their holders’ status as “Afghan citizen[s] temporarily residing in Pakistan,” provides relief to the country’s 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees whose cards were to expire on June 30. However, the six-month extension falls far short of the December 31, 2017 date recommended by the federal Ministry for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON). The extension also fails to address the insecurity among refugees over the duration of that status and uncertainty regarding protection if the government ends their status.
Implicit and explicit threats by Pakistani officials over the past year have exacerbated the Afghans’ insecurity. On May 24, 2016, Balochistan’s provincial home minister, Sarfraz Khan Bugti, said, “Either the Afghan refugees can return voluntarily, with respect and dignity, or the people of Balochistan can humiliate them and throw them out of the country.” On June 27, Pakistan’s minister for SAFRON, Lt. Gen. (Rtd.) Abdul Qadir Baloch, announced that Pakistan would undertake a “new tougher policy” toward Afghan refugees. Baloch justified the policy as a response to recent tensions with Afghanistan including deadly clashes in June between Afghan and Pakistani troops at the Torkham border-crossing. Baloch said that the purpose of the new policy was to repatriate Afghan refugees “with respect,” without elaborating.