More than 3 million Afghans have voluntarily repatriated from Pakistan with UNHCR assistance since 2002, the UN refugee agency said Monday.
It is the largest such operation in the UN refugee agency's history, according to a statement issued by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees here.
Since UNHCR started assisting returns to post-Taliban Afghanistan in 2002, a total of 3,009,484 Afghans have been processed to return home from Pakistan, the statement said.
The number includes more than 1.56 million in 2002, 343,074 in 2003, 383,598 in 2004, 449,520 in 2005, 133,015 in 2006 and 135, 182 so far in 2007, it said.
The landmark repatriation figure was reached a week before the end of a six-week grace period this year announced by the Pakistani government for Afghans who had not taken part in the registration exercise of October 2006 to February 2007 and thus do not have Proof of Registration (PoR) cards.
Accordingly, those Afghans without PoR cards have to repatriate before April 15 if they want to avail UNHCR assistance.
The Pakistani government has said that after this date, Afghans without PoR cards will be treated as illegal immigrants who are subject to relevant national laws.
More than 75,000 returnees have already received their return assistance from encashment centers in Afghanistan so far this year.
Voluntary repatriation for registered Afghans with PoR cards will start after April 15 and continue till the end of the year.
The PoR cards are valid for three years and provide temporary protection for Afghans living in Pakistan till the end of 2009.