An article published in 2009, by Milner, highlighted the role that refugees play in the regional organization of things. The article firstly characterized violent conflicts like those in Afghanistan as having the potential to “spill over into neighboring states”. Additionally, he claimed that because violent intrastate conflicts have the ability to recur from time to time, these conflicts give rise to “protracted refugee situations”. He further characterized it as long periods of exile, restriction of a wide range of rights. Also, in the grander scheme of things they give rise to political and security situations for the host state and country of origin.
In light of Milner’s framework
Contextually speaking, Milner’s framework provides a lens that fits our needs as nations. The largest settlement of Afghan Refugees is in Pakistan. A recent effort by the Government of Pakistan, to collect and verify information of PoR Cardholders is set to begin after Ramadan. Many Afghans have resettled or repatriated since 2002. However, a majority of the Afghan refugee population within Pakistan continues to suffer.
Subsequently, peacebuilding efforts are currently underway within Afghanistan. Although, this doesn’t deny the fact that repatriations do not receive their deserved warranted attention. Additionally, there is another compounding problem that exists in the case of Pakistan. In which the discourse largely hints at refugees being an economic burden and potential security threat. As a result, these misperceptions have led to contentions between the two states.
Typically, the host countries choose to adopt humanitarian conduct towards the refugees. These communities are given aid by UNHCR and the government, but proper capacity-building measures are not granted. Due to cultural and religious similarities, assimilation of Afghan refugees who have decided to settle in Pakistan has not been difficult. However, the greater regionalization role these communities can play is immensely undermined.
Diasporas and expatriate communities living away from home are key to a nation’s image building. Viewing Afghan refugees from a myopic lens of humanitarian assistance limits the role they can play in the building of bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Both countries should focus on utilizing these communities and investing in building their capacities.
The possibility of achieving an Afghan-owned peace process;
By targeting these communities, Pakistan can try and improve the public perception that the Afghans have of Pakistanis. Pakistan is currently trying to promote the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. It is empowering the Afghan state, to take charge of their own destiny. While Pakistan pours its efforts into helping the Afghan Peace Process, it should also initiate the first step towards regionalism. In this regard, the Afghan refugee community can prove vital.