Pakistan will convene a two-day international conference this month to mark the decades-long presence of hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees in the country, the government said Sunday.
The conference, titled “40 years of Afghan Refugees Presence in Pakistan: A New Partnership for Solidarity,” will be held Feb. 17-18 in the capital Islamabad in collaboration with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate the conference.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi along with ministers and senior officials from around 20 countries who have been supporting Afghan refugees across the globe and in Pakistan will be taking part. In addition, senior-level participation is expected from the UN, multilateral development banks, civil society and the private sector.
"This conference is taking place at an important juncture when efforts at consolidating peace in Afghanistan are making progress," the statement said, referring to stepped-up efforts by the U.S. to bring an end to its nearly 18-year-long war in Afghanistan through a peace deal with the Taliban.
"Besides providing an opportunity to highlight the exemplary compassion, generosity and hospitality exhibited by Pakistan in hosting one of the largest refugee populations in the world, the conference will further identify key developments and milestones in the 40-year-long evolution of the Afghan refugee situation, reflect on the lessons learned, identify the challenges and discuss solutions for the voluntary, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees to Afghanistan," the statement added.
The conference, it went on to say, will reinforce international efforts as agreed to in the UN Global Compact on Refugees and Global Refugee Forum to bring about a renewed focus on Afghan refugees.
"It will also help in building a positive narrative on refugees, especially at a time when borders are being closed on them and millions are being made stateless under nationalistic and ideological pretenses," the statement concluded.
There are around 2.5 million documented and undocumented Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, making it the largest refugee population in the world after the Syrians in Turkey.
Most of the refugees live in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and southwestern Balochistan provinces which border Afghanistan./aa