ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's government has extended the stay of Afghan refugees in the country for 60 days, a shorter-than-recommended time that revives fears Islamabad is preparing a forced return of hundreds of thousands to violence-plagued Afghanistan.
About 2.5 million Afghans live in Pakistan, home to the world's second-largest refugee population.
For years, the refugees, some of whom have been living in Pakistan since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, received longer-term extensions of up to a year of the Proof of Registration cards that give them legal status.
But recent tense relations between the neighbors has prompted concern that Pakistan might retaliate by pushing back Afghan refugees, particularly since official permission to stay was only extended for 30 days at the beginning of this year.
On Wednesday, Pakistan's Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, which deals with the refugees, recommended a five-month extension in permission to stay.
But late that evening, the cabinet disregarded the recommendation and ordered a shorter extension.