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President Karzai plans tough measures to help displaced Afghans return to north

President Karzai plans tough measures to help displaced Afghans return to north

Acknowledging that insecurity has prevented returns to the north, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has told a group of displaced Pashtuns that he plans to improve security through disarmament and leadership changes.
27 October 2003
Afghan President Hamid Karzai with displaced Pashtuns at the Presidential Palace in Kabul.

KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct 27 (UNHCR) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has reassured a group of internally displaced Afghans from the north by calling for tough measures to stop the violence that has prevented them from going home.

Meeting the Displaced Persons Council (DPC) at Kabul's Presidential Palace on Saturday, President Karzai acknowledged that the primary obstacle to the return of minority groups to northern Afghanistan was the continuing abuse of civilians by commanders in the region.

Security is crucial if internally displaced Afghans are to return home, he said. Responding to the DPC chairman's appeal for the central government and international peacekeeping troops to extend their control, President Karzai called for a change of leadership that will see certain governors, chiefs of security and commanders in the northern provinces being replaced with top provincial authorities who are impartial and not linked to any of the warring factions.

A professor from Kabul University has already been appointed as the new governor of Mazar-i-Sharif, where the government has sent 300 national police to improve security. Changes will start in this northern city before being introduced in the other northern areas.

Disarming the warring factions will also contribute to better security, said President Karzai, stressing the importance of transparent management in the whole process.

President Karzai was addressing a group of internally displaced persons in the DPC, an initiative of the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation. The council comprises displaced Pashtun men and women originating from the northern provinces of Faryab, Saripul, Jowzan, Balkh and Samangan, who are currently displaced in other parts of Afghanistan and western Pakistan.

Meeting for the first time a week ago, the council aims to empower internally displaced Afghans, offering them the opportunity to discuss why they were uprooted and why they can't return home. It also seeks to make constructive recommendations on how to address these obstacles, presenting these suggestions to Afghan Minister of Refugees and Repatriation Enayatullah Nazeri, UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and various representatives of governmental and non-governmental organisations.

The UN refugee agency has supported the DPC initiative in the hope that it will improve security and pave the way for the safe, dignified and voluntary return of displaced Afghans to the north.

There are some 220,000 internally displaced people in Afghanistan. More than 30,000 have returned home so far this year, while others have integrated into their host communities and are no longer dependent on relief aid.