Islamabad, (Parliament Times) : The Senate Functional Committee on Problems on Less Developed Areas in its meeting held on Wednesday the rights of Afghan Refugees living in Pakistan and packages and incentives of the Federal Levies of Balochistan and of provincial levies including the service rules, service structure and emoluments for serving personnel and martyred soldiers. .
Chaired by Senator Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar, the meeting was attended by, Senator Nusrat Shaheen, Senator Fida Muhammad, Senator Gianchand, Senator Sardar Muhammad Shafiq Tareen, Senator Anwar Lal Dean and senior officers from the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Interior and Home Department Khyber Pakhtunkhawa alongwith all concerned. Minister for States and Frontier Regions Sahabzada Muhammad Mehboob Sultan was present as well.
While deliberating over the plight of Afghan Refugees residing in Pakistan the Committee was informed that repatriation of registered Afghan Refugees (POR holders) is governed under Non- Refoulment clause of the Tripartite Agreement according to which registered refugees have the option to return on voluntary basis with dignity and honour. The extension of this policy is approved by the Federal Cabinet from time to time after recommendations from all stakeholders.
The Committee stressed the need for allocation of the right of free movement within Pakistan. The Committee was informed that Afghan Refugees with valid identity documents are allowed to move across the country. However, restrictions are applicable in sensitive and strategic areas. Additionally the temporary restrictions imposed by provincial government from time to time are applicable as well.
Discussing the problem of expired refugee cards of Afghan Refugees the Committee stressed the need for immediate renewal. The Ministry informed the Committee that the verification exercise funded by the UNHCR is in its final stages and that the concept note of for POR Card renewal has been endorsed by SAFRON and stakeholders. The exercise is due to commence in March 2021. Chairman Committee, Senator Usman Khan Kakar stressed the need for an awareness campaign in Pushto and Farsi. Regarding quota for performing Hajj and Umrah the Committee stressed the need that refugees living in Pakistan must be determined with the consultation of Government of Afghanistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Committee was informed that the matter was taken up with the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to further take up the matter with the Kingdom of Afghanistan. Chairman Committee said that a letter would be sent to the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to provide a special quota for refugees.
Taking up the issue of harassment of travellers at checkpoints in Zhob and Sherani areas, Chairman Committee directed the Ministry of Interior to ensure that this trend is stopped completely.
Discussing packages and incentives of the Federal Levies of Balochistan and of provincial levies, the Committee was of the view that the service structure and financial incentives of Federal Levies in Balochistan must be increased or be made equal to that of provincial levies. The Committee was informed that levies serving in Balochistan are considered civil servants and therefore are fully covered and are extended full benefits under the Prime Minister’s assistance package for families of government employees who die in service. As far as service rules are concerned the Federal Levies serving in Balochistan are governed under the executive instructions of the Political Agent 1954. Chairman Committee, Senator Usman Khan Kakar was of the view that the law is too old and therefore, it is imperative to ensure that serving levies are given the commensurate emoluments to security those serving in the provinces. As noted by members it was observed that in some settled areas ambiguity prevails regarding the status of levies. The Committee directed that representatives of the Home Department Khyber Pakhtunkhwa must provide a report regarding these issues, especially for Malakand in the next meeting. Chairman Committee, Senator Usman Khan Kakar gave directions that SAFRON and Finance Department Khyber PakhtunKhwa must get together and finalize service structure, rules and regulations for Balochistan Levies at the earliest. Minister for States and Frontier Regions Sahabzada Muhammad Mehboob Sultan assured that Ministry will ensure that all recommendations of the Committee are implemented.