Strengthening the potential for Voluntary repatriation of Afghan Refugees in the Southern districts of Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa province, including FR

Project Overview
Operational context

Millions of Afghans left their country and sought refuge in safer areas in the neighbouring Pakistan and Iran after their country was invaded by the former Soviet Union in December 1979. Pakistan bore the burden of massive refugee influxes, as geographically it borders Afghanistan. Afghanistan has experienced many political changes since the Soviet withdrawal in February 1989, yet repatriation of millions of refugees from Pakistan has not been accomplished. Attempts have been made to repatriate the refugees many a time, but these were not as successful, as new influxes led to continued presence of refugee population in Pakistan. The changing nature of the Afghan conflict has put stress on the Pakistani Government to permanently resolve the prolonged issue of refugees in Pakistan. Repatriation of Afghan refugees is a formidable task for any government in Pakistan due to the complicated and stressful nature of process. Pakistan itself being a developing country with a population of 180 million, anticipates the return of the huge number of Afghan Refugees because they pose an enormous economic burden especially in the prevailing circumstances. Efforts have been made to repatriate the Afghan Refugees under the 2002 Repatriation Program, but still approximately 2 million Afghan Refugees remain in Pakistan who crossed the borders from 40 different locations in Afghanistan. Currently, the bulk of refugees in Pakistan are Pashtuns living within and outside the refugee camps in various parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.


Justification for the Project

Despite efforts made by the Government of Pakistan and the UNHCR for repatriation of Afghan Refugees the process could not take off successfully.  In the year 2010, some 7,500 refugees re- entered Pakistan, compelled by lack of security, livelihood and shelter in Afghanistan. During 2011, the total number of refugees repatriated from Pakistan was 43000, that is 59% lower than the figure of around 100,000 during the preceding year of 2010. The decline in the volume of repatriation of Afghan refugees was noted with concern and hence the need for more concerted efforts by the Government and the UN refugee organization to further streamline the joint intervention to put the process on track.

Targeted Population of the Project

Afghan refugees

 Targeted population group description

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has an estimated population of about 21 million. The largest ethnic group is the Pashtun, historically known as ethnic Afghans, who form well over two-third of the population. Around 1.5 Afghan refugees also remain in the province, majority of which are Pashtuns, followed by Tajiks, Hazaras, and other smaller groups. Despite having lived in the province for over two decades, they are registered as citizens of Afghanistan.

Pashto is the most pervasive language while Hindko is the second most commonly spoken indigenous language. It is predominant in eastern parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and is the main language spoken in most cities and towns including Peshawar.

In most rural areas of the central and southern parts of the province, various Pashtun tribes can be found including the Bhittani, Banosi, Khattak, Baber, Gandapur, Gharghasht, Marwat, Bangash, Mehsud and Wazir. In addition, various non-Pashtun tribes including Mughal and Gujjaralso inhabitcertain parts of Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa.Majority of the Gujjar tribe has been further divided into different classes; they speak Pushto and claim to be Afghans by caste, because some of them migrated from Afghanistan and settled across the province. Pukthoons, however, consider these people as non-pukhtoon tribe.Gujjar in Afghanistan count 35 percent of the total population, majority of whom speak Pushto and other languages.However, in the southern-most district live some of the Baloch tribe; and some other sub-tribes of Lashari tribe. These Baloch tribes speak Saraikias their first language. In this southern district, majority of population speakSaraiki.

In October 2006, the government with support from UNHCR started a 15-week exercise to register the Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. 2.19 million Afghans were registered and issued Proof of Registration (PoR) cards. Over 360,000 Afghans returned home in 2007, including more than 200,000 unregistered Afghans. In 2008, more than 274,000 Afghans repatriated voluntarily from Pakistan with UNHCR’s assistance. In 2009, some 37,000 Afghans have returned home.

Since 2002, UNHCR assisted repatriation of 4.6 million Afghan refugees from Pakistan and Iran in collaboration with the respective governments of these hosting countries. Those repatriated from Pakistan returned to Kabul (26%), Nangrahar province in the East (14%), Herat province in the West (8%) and Kunduz province in the North (8%).

According to official sources as many as 175,654 PoR card holders, both encamped and off-camp, are currently residing in Southern districts of KP i.e. Hangu, Kohat, FR Kohat, Bannu, FR Bannu, LakkiMarwat, FR LakkiMarwat, Dera Ismail Khan, FR DIK, Tank and FR Tank.

Demographic Data by Population Planning Group

Name of Population   Planning Group:  


Age Group




in numbers

in %

in numbers

in %

in numbers

in %






















60 and >














Major locations:

  Hangu, Kohat, FR Kohat, Bannu, FR Bannu,    LakkiMarwat, FR LakkiMarwat, Dera Ismail Khan, FR  DIK, Tank and FR Tank

Implementation Arrangements

Approach and process

Project management will establish a PMU in Bannu and 2 Repatriation InformationCells (RICs), one each in Bannu and Kohat;both RICs will extend their field services in the adjoining districts/ FRs and will be headed by District Project Officer (DPO). Project Director will head the PMU and DPOs will be reportable to Project Director. There will be 6 Field Officers operating in Kohat, FR Kohat and Hangu to serve relatively larger population of PoRcard holders in the area and 6 Field Officers will be deployed in RIC Bannu. 2 Field Officers will also be responsible to monitor the repatriation route from FR Tank to FR Kohat across the Indus Highway. They willmonitor the repatriation process at the Repatriation Exit Point on Pak-Afghan border at Ghulam Khan in North Waziristan. In addition,4 Female Field Officers (FFOs) will serve the targeted communities to ensure smooth gender sensitization. The teamsareto establish strong refugees’ identification, mobilization and referral mechanisms in the refugee areas of Southern KP to provide support to Voluntary Repatriation Center (VRC) in Bannu. Project team will be responsible toidentify PoR holder Afghan refugees both in camps and hosting areas, to mobilize them for voluntary repatriation to Afghanistan in a dignified and orderly manner, by facilitating their grouping for return, identifying their apprehensions if they are not convinced to return, and find out other concerns they have and will be referred to relevant actors in the area. The overall process will initiate with2 awareness campaigns per district and FR. The teams will twice visittheencamped and refugee areas per month per district/FR, by involving Afghan communities.

The team will mainly focus to identify their attitudes and concerns about repatriation as well as their reservations and issues for not returning. The teams will record their issues and will refer them to relevant government and non-government organizations as appropriate. Potential cases with special protection needs identified will be referred to UNHCR for possible resettlement.

The Afghan individuals and groups identified will be referred to UNHCR VRC in Bannu. RIPORT team will monitor the return routes from VRC to Ghulam Khan Afghan border, in order to ensure  the safe and dignifiednature of the return to Afghanistan are a reality.

To achieve these results, the teams will conduct 2 FGDs per month that will help identifying their attitudinal issues about returning to their country of origin.

Social Mobilization

Voluntary repatriation process is entirely dependent on the refugees’ identification and their mobilization that creates an opportunity for a strong team of Field Officers to approach the targeted refugee areas of southern districts as well as relevant FRs to motivate and facilitate them during their voluntary repatriation to Afghanistan. A team of 12Male Field Officers and 4 Female Field Officers will be deployed in bothRICs in Bannu and Kohat. The 2 teams of male and female Field Officers will visit the targeted communities in all 6 southern districts twice a month to address their concerns, and will identify refugees in the field through planned visits in the area and will conduct FGDs as part of motivation campaignsto highlight the benefits of reintegration in their country. They will also address their concerns and possible problems currently being faced by them and/or those which they are anticipating to face during the process of repatriation and after their return to Afghanistan.

Referral Mechanism:

RIPORT’s past experience in establishing and operating effective referral mechanisms in previous projects will make it easier for itsefficient team to setup an SOS help-line service, enabling the PoRcard holders to approach Repatriation Information Cells (RICs)located in Bannu and Kohatdistricts. DPO and Field Officers will record their concerns in order to provide them with desired solutions through other relevant actors operating in the region.

Repatriation Route Monitoring

The project team will also undertake monitoring of the repatriation route during afghan returns throughout the belt from FR Tank to FR Kohatas well as monitoring of Afghan border at Ghulam Khan, North Waziristan during the return process.To carry out monitoring of the route and exit point on the border responsible personnel will be the Project Director, Manager Monitoring & Evaluation/Reporting and 2 Field Officers accompanied by 4 local tribesmen (badragas) to ensure safe mobility of the team. This type of monitoring will be subject to the movement of repatriation of Afghans.

Outreach Component

Research will also be conducted by using various tools, including personal interviews, meetings, FGDs and collecting secondary data. Data will be analyzed to produce information and research papers/reports which will be forwarded to policy makers as recommendation and thepublished material will be shared with key national and international stakeholders. The research will probe the guiding principles on displaced people, the causes of repatriation and the means which led to present day volatile situation in the region and how to deal with future situations effectively. The recommendations will help the policy makers, research organizations, development activists and workers to broaden their understanding of refugee situations and to tailor policies byproviding guiding principles on refugee issues.

Research work will measure the impact of the project through communities’ participation, achievements and work done during the project. Project Director, Manager M&E/Reporting and Field Officers will put together their efforts within this component of the project to generate potential studies. These studies will help the partners, government and other donor agencies to apply focused, specific and need-based knowledge to handle any issues relating to Afghan refugees.

The main themes of research studies will include the following:

  • Corruption related to Afghan refugees
  • Attitudinal issues of Afghan refugees
  • Conflict issues related to refugees
  • Economic issues due to presence of Afghan refugees in Pakistan
  • Relationship between Conflicts and Social & Economic Inequality due to presence of Afghans in Pakistan

Key activities

  • Facilitation of voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees through VRC
  • Creation of an information gathering and dissemination strategy relating to Afghanistan
  • Awareness campaigns for mobilization of the refugees including publication of pamphlets to convey information to encourage repatriation
  • Development of a questionnaire
  • Identification of stakeholders
  • Identification of Afghan refugees in camps & those residing outside
  • Identification of group leaders
  • Field visits to encamped Afghan refugees/outside camps
  • Establishing Referral Mechanism through relevant active stakeholders
  • Monitoring of repatriation route and the process during Afghan returns
  • Data collection for research
  • Focus Group Discussions
  • Monitoring & Reporting
  • Data compilation and evaluation/analysis



K&P Consultancy
Chief International
Delhi policy group
wana forum
Agriculture university
khyber pakhtunkhwa
ISLE of man
London school of economics and political science
university of peshawar
US aid


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Gomal Zam