When Qaisar Khan fled to Pakistan with his family from Afghanistan in the 1980s, he barely thought that even after four decades he could not be able to return to the place where he was born and spent the prime of his life.

The then 63-year-old made the choice right after a fateful night when rattles of guns forced him to think that maybe he and his kids would not be able to see the rising sun of the next day. The blazing guns were not only intimidating but also stirred the feeling in him to escape.

"The fear of death was looming on me. I did not want to leave my house, but I had to do it for my children's safety."

Due to the unrest in Afghanistan, the 103-year-old, who never saw a foreign land before he stepped on Pakistan's land, never wished to return to his home country where his forefathers are buried. For him, his family's safety is priority.

"I came with seven members of my family including my wife and kids, now we have more than 50 of us here, and if there is no peace in Afghanistan, more generations are to follow into Pakistan, in the refugee camp. How can we go back? To die of hunger or bullet," Khan told Xinhua in Khazana camp for Afghan refugees in Peshawar, the capital city of Pakistan's northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Pakistan hosts 210,465 household of 1,416,078 registered refugees, making the country one of the biggest host of refugees in the world.

However, Muhammad Abbas Khan, commissioner at the Pakistani government's Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees, told Xinhua that apart from the over 1.4 million refugees, there are 800,000 more registered with the Pakistani government, while an estimated 500,000 others are staying undocumented in the country.

"The registered with the UNHCR hold a proof of registration (PoR) card issued in 2005 after a census, and the card is renewed on yearly basis. Two years ago, the Pakistani government issued Afghan Citizenship Cards to about 800,000 people in order to document the large population of unregistered Afghans living illegally in the country, though the card does not have perk and privileges like the PoR card."

The Afghan refugees stay in 44 camps where they are provided basic health and education facilities. The housing at the camps along with basic facilities are being financed by Pakistan, while education, medical and other community services are covered by the UNHCR or donor organizations, according to the official.

"We roughly spent about 280 billion U.S. dollars on the refugees since the beginning of the Afghan refugee issue in the 1980s till 2008," the commissioner said, adding the new figure is being estimated by an independent agency.

Naseer Ahmad, 31, was born and schooled in Pakistan. "I have been to Afghanistan only once to seek employment, but came back in less than a year because being away from Pakistan is being away from my family which is settled here."

But his life in Pakistan is also tough by earning less than 4 dollars a day in a scrap shop. His family also lives from hand to mouth, he told Xinhua, adding that one-year stay extension policy also made them anxious and insecure. Even though, situation in Afghanistan terrified the young man. "I have a one-room home here. I am alive. I am hungry but breathing."

Local analysts believe that Pakistan is trying to fulfill a global responsibility to support and protect refugees with the help of UNHCR and international donors, and more international support can bring ease to the lives of the destitute refugees.

But Pakistan is also in difficulties. Officials from the country's Ministry of States and Frontier Regions Division told Xinhua on condition of anonymity that international aid to Pakistan for refugees has greatly shrunk over the recent years due to emergence of refugee crisis in other parts of the world.

Former Pakistani envoy to Afghanistan Rustam Shah Mohmand believed that with the shrinking international support, life will keep on becoming tougher for the refugees in Pakistan.

"Pakistanis and the Afghan refugees are living together peacefully, but both sides are clear that the refugees have to repatriate someday. Millions of them have already been repatriated since the 1980s, but many of them had to return to Pakistan due to the unrest, and the American invasion in 2001 has made the condition even worse."

He said the world community should make efforts to bring peace in Afghanistan as security assurance is the basic thing for the refugees to return. Peace will gradually be followed by economic stability, and better living standards for the people of Afghanistan will be encouraging the repatriation of the refugees from Pakistan and other countries.

But Mohmand worried that the international community has slowly and gradually forgotten the decades-long tragic issue of Afghan refugees. "With the emergence of new refugee population in other parts of the world, Afghan refugee crisis has been overshadowed."

Pakistani analysts believe that the story of Afghan refugees encamped in Pakistan is of high human emotions, pragmatic financial considerations, stubborn realties, transforming generational link and above all of an issue which was silently yelling to wake world's conscience.

Abdul Jamal, a 17-year-old college student, only knows a little about Afghanistan through books or internet as he was born and bred in Pakistan. However, he visited all provinces of Pakistan, knows a lot about the history and geography of the country. He loves to sing Pakistani songs, celebrates the country's Independence Day in his school in Islamabad. He supports Pakistani cricket team, and is more heartbroken than anyone when the team loses its match.

"I feel deeply hurt when someone tells me that it is not my country. I don't understand why a place where you live and you love cannot be your home, only because it doesn't belong to you in documents," he said.

"I wish that someday I will be free of this fear that I have to leave from here parting with my friends to go to my so-called home which is no more than a foreign land for me."