Pakistan extends stay for Afghan refugees until March 2017

A Pakistani government statement says Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has extended the stay for Afghan refugees, pushing back a previously announced deadline by three months.

The statement says Sharif approved this decision at a Cabinet meeting on Friday in Islamabad.

Pakistan is currently hosting at least 1.5 million refugees. An additional 1 million unregistered Afghans have been staying in many parts of Pakistan since 1980s, when they escaped the violence at home.

The government's announcement comes amid reports that Pakistani authorities have been forcing Afghans to go back home even before the expiration of the previous, Dec. 31 deadline.

The statement quotes Sharif as saying that Afghan refugees are "guests" of Pakistan and that steps will be taken to ensure their safety.