NOWSHERA, 1 MARCH 2018: Muhammad Jan and his family have mixed feelings about going back to Afghanistan. His family has an emotional attachment to Pakistan, yet are excited to return to their home country.
His family is among nine other Afghan families who have chosen to return to Afghanistan as the UNHCR-facilitated voluntary repatriation programme resumed on 1 March after the winter break. The UN refugee agency facilitates the repatriation process through Azakhel in Nowshera, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baleli in Quetta, Balochistan.
Muhammad Jan, his wife and seven children lived a happy life in the Mansehra district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. “One day we had to go back. Now is the right time,” said Jan, who was wearing a traditional shawl and hat.
Coming from Paktiya province, he now intends to live in Kabul with his family. “I will face challenges in the beginning but I am sure we will settle down,” he said.
His 18-year-old son Wali Muhammad is fluent in English. “For me the most important aim is to enroll in a college in Afghanistan and become a doctor,” said Wali, who used to work as a salesman in Pakistan.
Head of UNHCR in Peshawar, Mr. Dinesh Shrestha, met the family at the repatriation centre in Nowshera and congratulated Muhammad Jan for his efforts to educate his children despite his meagre earnings. “These educated young people can play a positive role in rebuilding,” Shrestha added.
Prior to their departure from the UNHCR’s centre, the family was greeted by the Director of the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, Hameed Jalili who presented flower garlands to the family members on behalf of the Afghan government to wish them a safe journey back home.
UNHCR provides approximately USD 200 to every registered individual upon their return to Afghanistan. Returnees receive the cash grant at the UNHCR centres in Afghanistan.
Pakistan continues to host 1.4 million Afghan refugees. Around 4.3 million Afghan refugees have gone back to Afghanistan under the UNHCR-supported voluntary repatriation programme since 2002.
By Samad Khan in Nowshera