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January 2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 1)
Pakistan's Refugee Plan
Nation (conservative), Lahore, Pakistan, Nov. 5, 2001
Pervez Musharraf has announced a comprehensive strategy to deal
with the problem of Afghan refugees created by the U.S. military
action against the Taliban government. It is one of three strategies,
said the president, needed to cope with the situation. The other
two strategies are military and political. In both of these
strategies Pakistans role varies from a marginal to an
advisory one, depending on U.S. decisions. And yet Pakistan
remains the most affected country in the world. The military
decisions, for example, have caused more violent protests here
than anywhere else, and [Pakistans] advice to the United
States to keep this military action short has not cut much ice.
Pakistan may lose more than it gained in the post-war days.
Pakistan is being assured that it will not be abandoned, as
it was when it helped the United States win its war against
Russia in Afghanistan, but the broad and deep fallout of such
a war on Pakistans society may still be quite destabilizing.
One part of that fallout, obviously, is the huge influx of refugees.
Pakistan has 2.5 million of them from the previous war, and
another 100,000 may have so far reached Pakistan, despite its
having closed its border with Afghanistan. And on top of that
international pressure is on, coaxing Pakistan to open its borders
to a whole flood of more refugees. To meet that pressure, President
Musharrafs four-point strategy may yet have a chance.
The first point being that, subject to the cooperation of the
Taliban, efforts should be made to send food, medicines, etc.,
to the cities and countryside of Afghanistan were people are
still living. That may, it is hoped, help the people stay put
and not join the caravans moving to the borders.
The second point is that refugee camps should be established
by the Red Cross and other agencies close to the border inside
Afghanistan, for those who have already left their homes and
are trying to cross over to Pakistan. The other two points,
which deal with help to those who have already crossed over
or may cross over, are, of course, implementable and good, further
underpinned as these are by the food and other resources available
to Pakistan, plus the resources Pakistan is planning to generate
by giving a call to the public for donations and other help.
Needless to say the only meaningful solution to the problem
lies in an early end to the war.