Afghans stand in line to cross the Pakistani-Afghan border in Chaman, Pakistan, 06 April 2020 | Photo: ARCHIVE/EPA/AKHTER GULFAM
Afghans stand in line to cross the Pakistani-Afghan border in Chaman, Pakistan, 06 April 2020 | Photo: ARCHIVE/EPA/AKHTER GULFAM

The Pakistani ambassador to Italy, Jauhar Saleem, said his country does not intend to become a colossal refugee camp for Afghans fleeing the Taliban, given that the country already hosts millions of them. He said at the moment there is not a wave of refugees at the border.

Pakistan does not intend to become a colossal refugee camp for Afghans fleeing the Taliban, as it already hosts millions of refugees, said Pakistani Ambassador to Italy Jauhar Saleem during an online press conference held 19 August.

He said a massive influx of refugees -- which currently does not exist -- would also represent a serious health risk during the Covid pandemic.

Pakistan, he stated, does not like the idea put forward by several European leaders, in which Afghan refugees could be accommodated in the region's neighboring countries in exchange for aid to those countries.

"Over the last 30 to 40 years, Pakistan has welcomed the largest number of refugees in the world," Saleem said.

"There are now about four million, and this is without having the resources that some European countries have. We have always welcomed them on the condition that they would return home when the situation allowed it, but this didn't happen. Pakistan does not currently have this capacity to accommodate."

'Want to remain cautious'

He added that: "And you will recall when the Syrians arrived in Europe. Despite the great resources of Germany and other countries, that wave caused political crises, and Europe was not able to accommodate all those refugees. What's more, now there is a pandemic, and we want Covid to remain under control. So far we have done well, but we are a country of 225 million people, and we want to remain cautious."

Saleem said, however, that "currently we're not seeing any wave of refugees at the border, as evacuations are taking place at the Kabul airport. And in this phase we are assisting everyone, including the Italian embassy, to facilitate diplomats, members of NGOs, and other personnel leaving the country. We must see the situation for what it is at the moment and not go by hypotheses."

The Pakistani vision on Afghanistan

Saleem assessed the situation in Afghanistan following the takeover by the Taliban with the same pragmatism, stressing the necessity of "avoiding misperceptions, of which Pakistan was also a victim, when it was said that what was happening was Pakistan's fault, while the problems were internal to Afghanistan."

"There hasn't been major violence in the streets.And the first statements from Kabul are encouraging on fundamental human rights, on education, on women's rights and participation in the government. We are hopeful. Before we start judging, we have to see the facts," Saleem said. The ambassador stressed that Pakistan has played a constructive role in fostering dialogue, with the aim of a lasting peace.

"Pakistan thinks all parties must be represented in a future government, all ethnic groups, so that there is a prospect of peace for the Afghans. But always in compliance with the principle of non-interference," he concluded.

 

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