Pakistani consulate in Herat suspends service amid coronavirus threat

In this file photo, Afghan security personnel stand guard in front of the Pakistan embassy in Kabul on May 10, 2016. (AFP)
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Updated 15 March 2020

Pakistani consulate in Herat suspends service amid coronavirus threat

  • The consulate will suspend services for at least two weeks, starting Sunday
  • Emergency was declared in Herat after the first case of coronavirus was confirmed on Feb. 24

PESHAWAR: The Pakistani Embassy in Kabul will temporarily shut its consulate in Herat on Sunday over coronavirus threats in the Afghan province bordering Iran, officials confirmed to Arab News.
“We will keep our consulate in Herat shut temporarily for 15 days, effective from March 8,” Muhammad Hassan Wazir, deputy chief of mission at Pakistan’s Embassy in Kabul, said on Thursday. He added that the ongoing coronavirus crisis in Iran had prompted the decision.
According to reports on Thursday, Pakistan itself has already recorded six infections since the first one was confirmed last week.
The Pakistani Embassy in Kabul said in a statement that it “would continue to monitor the situation and would consult with Afghan government before taking a decision on resumption of visa services.”
Hikmat Safi, adviser to Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), confirmed that Pakistan had announced the closure of its consulate in Herat, as Afghan authorities suspect 80 persons might have contracted the disease.
The persons returned from neighboring Iran, where 3,513 cases and 107 deaths have been reported.
Safi said the situation is expected to become more complicated as Iran started to deport Afghan refugees.
“The move to close the Herat consulate will only multiply problems of Afghans, seeking Pakistani visas. Officials of the two countries should adopt other preemptive measures to counter the fast-spreading virus instead of closing the consulate,” Safi said.
A state of emergency was declared in Herat after the first case of coronavirus was confirmed on Feb. 24.


‘Baby don’t go’: American singer Cher in Pakistan to bid farewell to Kaavan the elephant 

Updated 27 November 2020

‘Baby don’t go’: American singer Cher in Pakistan to bid farewell to Kaavan the elephant 

  • The 'world's loneliest elephant' has languished in the Islamabad zoo for 35 years and lost his partner in 2012
  • Cher and animal rights groups have campaigned for years for the elephant’s better treatment and freedom 

ISLAMABAD: American singing sensation Cher called on Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday during a visit to Pakistan to celebrate the departure of Kaavan, dubbed the “world’s loneliest elephant,” who is all set to leave an Islamabad zoo for a sanctuary in Cambodia.

Cher and other rights groups have for years lobbied for the better treatment and release of Kaavan, who has languished in the Islamabad zoo for 35 years. He was diagnosed by veterinarians as both overweight and malnourished earlier this year, and also suffers behavioral issues. He will leave for Cambodia on Sunday.

“Appreciating her efforts in retiring Kavan to an elephant sanctuary, the Prime Minister thanked Cher for her campaign and role in this regard,” a government handout said. “The Prime Minister observed that it was indeed a happy moment for all of us that after giving joy and happiness to the people of Islamabad and Pakistan for about 35 years, Kavan will now be able to retire with other elephants in a specialized sanctuary in Cambodia.”

Khan also invited the singer to contribute towards the government's initiative to expand its tourism and environmental programs, “to which she kindly agreed.”

“On this occasion, Cher applauded the Prime Minister for his government's key initiatives for ensuring a cleaner and greener Pakistan,” the statement added. “She also offered her support for furthering the green initiatives through her organization 'Free the Wild' and thanked the Prime Minister.”

Cher took up Kaavan’s cause and has been a loud voice advocating for his resettlement. Four Paws International, a Vienna-based animal welfare group, has also led the charge to save Kaavan and provided the medical treatment needed before he can travel. The battle for his relocation began in 2016.

Even after he’s in Cambodia, Kaavan will require years of physical and even psychological assistance, Four Paws' representatives have said.

Because of the abysmal living conditions blamed on systemic negligence, Pakistan’s high court in May ordered the closure of Marghazar Zoo in the capital of Islamabad, where Kaavan has lived for much of his life. A medical examination in September showed Kaavan’s nails were cracked and overgrown — the result of years of living in an improper enclosure with flooring that damaged his feet.

The elephant has also developed stereotypical behavior, shaking his head back and forth for hours, which the medical team of wildlife veterinarians and experts blamed on his utter boredom.

For the past three months, a Four Paws team including veterinarian Dr. Amil Khalil and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board has been readying Kaavan to leave. Members of the welfare group will also accompany him to the sanctuary.