Pakistan opens doors to Afghan evacuees


ISLAMABAD:

Pakistan on Wednesday offered a special package of transit visa to Afghan diplomats and high officials upon their arrival at Islamabad, as the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul continued to extend consular services for Pakistanis, Afghans and nationals of other countries and help them leave the country.

In the wake of deteriorating situation in Kabul, after the fall of the city to the Taliban on Sunday, the government had decided to open all Pakistani airports round-the-clock for foreign diplomats, journalists, and officials of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank etc, coming from Kabul.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told a press conference that special package of transit visa had been offered to the diplomats and officials on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan. He added that the relevant staff would be available on the Pakistani airports to facilitate the arrivals.

The minister revealed that currently there were no Afghan immigrants present at the Torkham or Chaman border crossings. “The situation on these two borders reportedly remained peaceful. The route is clear for trade and transit,” he said. “Everything was under control on borders.”

The move comes as most of the western countries are frantically evacuating staff from Afghanistan and have shut down their missions. However, the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul continues to extend consular services for Pakistanis, Afghans and nationals of other countries and help them leave the country.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmed Khan said in a message that visas and consular services were operational, and full cooperation was being extended to all international missions, diplomats, organisations and media by assisting them in temporary relocation and repatriation.

Read World must support Afghanistan economically, nation-building: PM

So far around 400 visas have been issued to the foreign media in Afghanistan, besides around 800 visas were issued on Tuesday to Afghan and other nationals. Rashid said that so far, 613 Pakistanis and at least 900 diplomats and other embassy staff had been evacuated from Afghanistan.

Kabul fell to the Taliban on Sunday, without any bloodshed, and several countries opted to shut down their missions and ordered immediate evacuations, causing panic. The chaotic scenes at the Kabul international airport further exacerbated the situation.

Ambassador Khan said the Pakistan Embassy Kabul would continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Pakistanis, Afghans and other nationals. He said due to the closure of airport for civilian flights Pakistanis were being sent back by road through Torkham.

“We are specially facilitating visas for Afghan journalists & families in this period of uncertainty. Media people needing visas may contact Press Counsellor at WhatsApp 00923222807683 and they will be facilitated,” Ambassador Khan added in a tweet.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi commended the diplomats in Afghanistan for “standing strong & working above & beyond call of duty in line w/ Pakistan’s commitment to peace & values of humanity. @PakinAfg is extending full consular services to all incl missions, orgs, media & families”.

Ambassador Khan assured the Pakistanis living in Kabul and adjoining areas that the embassy was engaged with the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to accommodate them on regular and additional flights. “We are also assisting those who have issue of affordability. Contact the Embassy,” he tweeted.

The Public Diplomacy Wing of the Foreign Office also shared the telephone numbers of the staff who could be contacted for any assistance; Visa officer – 0093700728627, Visa asstt- 0093786324769, Ambassador 0093707300900.

At the press conference in Islamabad, Sheikh Rashid told reporters that currently around 100-120 Pakistani nationals were stranded in Afghanistan, however, the Pakistan mission was in process to evacuate them within a couple of days.

Responding to a question, the minister said that due to diplomatic efforts of Pakistan, the United States of America and Afghan Taliban sat on a negotiation table. “Pakistan’s efforts for peace process in Afghanistan will be remembered long,” he remarked.




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