PESHAWAR: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has directed all the banks and development finance institutions (DFIs) to facilitate the Afghan refugees for opening of bank accounts.

According to a circular issued by the SBP, the proof of registration (PoR) card issued by the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) will be required by the Afghan refugees for opening bank account in Pakistan. The banks have been directed to accept the PoR as an identity document for opening accounts of Afghan refugees.

This order by the central bank will enable the Afghan citizens to open bank accounts in Pakistan, the facility which was not provided to them for the last several decades.

A spokesman for the central bank said it is a good opportunity for the Afghan refugees to open bank accounts in Pakistan and get the related benefits. He said the proof of registration document will work as identity card of the Afghan refugees and the banks will verify the record of refugees intending to open the accounts through Nadra. The PoR card allows Afghan refugees the right to temporary legal stay in Pakistan.

Economic experts are terming it a good move which will help the Pakistan government keep an eye on financial transactions of the Afghan refugees. Previously, this facility was not available to Afghan refugees due to which the refugees doing business in Pakistan were facing difficulties in their financial transactions.

On February 26, Nadra activated biometric verification of Afghan refugees holding the PoR cards over the existing established linkage of the CNIC verification. The PoR verification service for Afghan refugees would work on the pattern of biometric verification system of the identity cards.

Voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees resumes

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) Friday said it has resumed voluntary repatriation of registered Afghan refugees from Pakistan after winter break.

The voluntary repatriation was suspended since December 1, 2018 till February 28, 2019 for winter break. According to the UNHCR statistics, Pakistan still hosts 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees, while the number of unregistered refugees is unknown. So far, around 4.4 million Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan under the UNHCR-facilitated voluntary repatriation programme since 2002.

Pakistan has extended the stay of registered Afghan refugees in the country till June this year.