Dawn – Afghanistan to airlift citizens if border is not reopened within two days: Ambassador

Afghan Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal on Saturday said Pakistan does not have a justification for the continued closure of crossing points on the Pakistan-Afghan border, and that his country might send in chartered flights to airlift stranded Afghans in case the border is not reopened soon.

Naveed Siddiqui

In a message posted to his Facebook page, Zakhilwal said he had talked with Pakistan’s de facto foreign minister, Sartaj Aziz, to convey that if an opening was not allowed for the return of stranded Afghans within two days, he would ask his government to send chartered flights to lift them.

“This, however, would reflect very poorly [on Pakistan],” he added.

Zakhilwal said the argument presented by Pakistan, that the border closure is intended to stop terrorists from crossing over, does not carry any weight, as “these points such as Torkham and Spin Boldak have been manned by hundreds of military and other security personnel” and have all the necessary equipment and infrastructure in place to prevent such a possibility.

“Continuous unreasonable closure of legal Pak-Afghan trade and transit routes cannot have any other explanation except to be aimed at hurting the common Afghan people,” the envoy said in his social media post, apparently in breach of diplomatic protocol.

The envoy emphasised that the closure of crossing points hurts bilateral trade between the two countries, with Pakistan losing more as a result of the closures.

“Pakistan’s declining export share in Afghanistan is indicative of that,” Zakhilwal said.

He also said the closure is in direct contradiction to the theme, objectives and messages of the recently-held Economic Cooperation Organisation summit in Islamabad.

Afghanistan’s top envoy said he had raised the issue of at least 25,000 Afghan nationals who had been unable to return to their country due to the closure, and have not been able to return despite repeated assurances in the past few weeks.

He elaborated that he had been given assurances that a partial opening of border crossings will be allowed to facilitate his countrymen, who he claimed had come to Pakistan either for medical treatment or personal visits.

The government had decided to seal the Torkham border crossing for an indefinite period on February 16, in the aftermath of a suicide attack at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar which killed 90.

The border was ordered closed for all kinds of communication due to ‘security concerns’.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1318401/afghanistan-to-airlift-citizens-if-border-is-not-reopened-within-two-days-ambassador

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