United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed gratitude towards the people and government of Pakistan over their heartfelt hospitality of the Afghan refugees of war.
The UN secretary-general made the remarks while meeting a delegation of Afghan refugees in Islamabad today. Representatives from Afghanistan, Yemen and Tajikistan were part of the delegation.
Speaking on the occasion, the UN chief said Pakistan was one of the largest refugee-hosting nations in the world. He added that 2.7 million refugees were residing in Pakistan with 2.4 million registered refugees affected by the Afghan war.
The secretary-general expressed gratitude to people and government of Pakistan over their heartfelt hospitality.
Guterres who arrived in Islamabad earlier today for a four-day visit will address the international conference on Afghan refugees titled “40 Years of Afghan Refugees Presence in Pakistan: A New Partnership for Solidarity.
The conference would be a recognition of Pakistan's "tremendous generosity" in hosting millions of refugees from Afghanistan over four decades, the UN chief’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told the regular noon briefing in New York. The conference will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Khan and is being organised by the Government of Pakistan and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Pakistan is one of the largest refugee-hosting nations in the world, home to an estimated 2.4 million registered and undocumented people who have fled Afghanistan, some as far back as the Soviet invasion of 1979.
Many live in camps, while others have built lives for themselves in Pakistan's cities, paying rent and contributing to the economy.
In a press release issued last week, the foreign office said senior-level participation was also expected from the UN, multilateral developments banks, civil society, and the country's private sector. "This conference is taking place at an important juncture when efforts at consolidating peace in Afghanistan are making progress," it added.
It would further identify key developments and milestones in the 40-year evolution of the Afghan refugee situation, reflect on the lessons learned during this period, identify the challenges, and discuss solutions for voluntary, dignified, and sustainable repatriation of refugees to Afghanistan.
"Pakistan is confident that the Conference 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 the 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 pretences,” the Foreign Office added.
The UN chief was received by Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to UN Munir Akram and senior officers of the Foreign Office at the Nur Khan Airbase.
During his four-day visit to the country, Guterres will meet President Arif Alvi, PM Imran Khan and other high-level government officials during his visit to Islamabad. He will also hold a meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. During these meetings, Pakistan will share its perspective on the Kashmir issue with the secretary-general.
Guterres’ other engagements include interactions with parliamentarians, media and the youth. He will deliver special talks on themes of sustainable development, climate change and peacekeeping, according to Radio Pakistan.
He will also pay a visit to Lahore and travel to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.
In a tweet on Saturday, the UN chief had said Pakistan was one of the most consistent and reliable contributors to the United Nation’s peacekeeping efforts around the world.
Lauding Pakistan’s contribution to worldwide peacekeeping efforts, Guterres said he was visiting the country to express his gratitude to the people.