Afghan officials welcome Pakistan’s liberal visa regime

Afghan police personnel stand guard outside Pakistan's embassy, in Kabul on November 4, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 18 October 2020

Afghan officials welcome Pakistan’s liberal visa regime

  • Pakistan’s special representative for Afghanistan, Mohammad Sadiq, announced the development on Friday
  • Under the new policy, Afghan nationals will get long-term, multiple-entry visas in all categories

PESHAWAR: Senior Afghan officials applauded on Saturday Pakistan’s decision to introduce a more liberal visa policy for Afghan nationals, describing it as a positive development that would strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries.
Pakistan’s special representative for Afghanistan, Mohammad Sadiq, announced in a Twitter post on Friday evening that Islamabad was now issuing long-term, multiple-entry visas to Afghan citizens in all categories.

He also said that Pakistan was giving more visas to Afghan nationals than “some 45 countries represented in Kabul.”

Afghanistan’s special envoy for Pakistan, Mohammad Umer Daudzai, welcomed the development.
“We’re grateful that the government and parliament of Pakistan approved critical improvements in the visa policy unilaterally,” he told Arab News. “The president of Afghanistan has also instructed the relevant authorities to introduce a new visa policy for Pakistani nationals that will further facilitate movement of people belonging to the two brotherly nations.”
Afghan nationals, seeking Pakistani visas, have complained of various problems in the past. Many of them claim that the Pakistani diplomatic mission in their country sometimes mishandles applications or indulges in favoritism while granting travel permits.
“I congratulate Ambassador Mansoor A. Khan for streamlining the issuance of visas to Afghan citizens,” Sadiq said in another Twitter post, referring to Pakistan’s envoy in Kabul. “The charges of corruption and mishandling of applicants in recent years had tarnished the image of Pakistan and caused hardship to visa applicants.”
Asadullah Saadati, a senior Afghan politician and a close aide of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation, told Arab News over the phone from Kabul that Islamabad’s new initiative would help encourage both countries to move forward and address any mistrust between them.
“Afghan nationals used to face problems while securing visas for Pakistan, so this move is a great favor,” he said. “Following Dr. Abdullah’s visit, bilateral ties are getting better, and I hope both countries will work in tandem to live as trusted neighbors.”
Gulmina Bilal, a Pakistani development consultant, told Arab News that there was a major shift in Pakistan where the government was now looking at the Pak-Afghan relations from people’s perspective rather than using the old security prism that was previously employed by policymakers.
“I think they are using the citizen perspective and waiting to see how the initiative is reciprocated,” she said. “Of course, there is the other narrative as well and its proponents are likely to push back against the change. But I feel this is a positive step for now.”
Peshawar-based Brig. (r) Saad Muhammad, a Pakistani security analyst, told Arab News that relaxing the visa regime was a bold step, adding that Islamabad had always tried to improve its ties with Kabul since Afghanistan’s security was also vital for Pakistan’s security.
Asked how the development would impact the overall environment in Pakistan, he asserted: “Pakistan has never said there would not be security issues. But that is also the reason why Islamabad has gone out of its way to normalize relations with Afghanistan.”

Pakistan's support for Kashmiri cause unwavering, Raheel Sharif says in Riyadh

Updated 31 October 2020

Pakistan's support for Kashmiri cause unwavering, Raheel Sharif says in Riyadh

  • Pakistani embassy in Riyadh held a seminar on the human rights situation in Kashmiri territory to mark Kashmir Black Day
  • Kashmiri self-determination is not only a moral and legally justified right, former Saudi ambassador to Pakistan says

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif said that Pakistan supports the Kashmiri cause with an "unflinching resolve."

The general's comment came during a seminar, "Human Rights Situation in Kashmir: Implications for Regional Peace and Stability," organized by the Pakistani embassy in Riyadh to observe Kashmir Black Day on Thursday.

"Let it be known that every citizen of Pakistan stands united with the people of Kashmir and supports their struggle for freedom with an unflinching resolve," said Gen. Raheel Sharif, who now leads the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, a counterterrorist alliance of Muslim countries, which is headquartered in Saudi Arabia.

"The issue of Kashmir is very close to every Pakistani’s heart as we fully understand the cause and dynamics of this struggle right from the beginning. We have closely witnessed the sufferings of our Kashmiri brethren and appreciate their resolve and valor in pursuit of their goal and fundamental human rights."

Former Pakistan army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif participates in a seminar organized in Riyadh by the Pakistani embassy to observe Kashmir Black Day on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. (Pakistan Embassy Riyadh via AN)

Kashmiri territory is divided between India and Pakistan, but both countries claim the region in its entirety. Crackdowns in the Indian-administered part have been escalating since August 2019, when New Delhi scrapped Articles 370 and 35A of the constitution, which gave Kashmiris limited autonomy and protected their domicile and employment rights.

If not reversed, the Indian regime's August move, Sharif said, will cause "further unrest in the region."

Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to Pakistan, Ali Awadh Asseri, who was one of speakers in the seminar, said that last year's change in Kashmir's status "through annexation and division of the internationally recognized disputed region," as well as subsequent lockdown and "enforced demographic shift currently underway" have aggravated the humanitarian crisis in the region.

"Kashmiri people are facing a more dangerous situation now as every passing day is marginalizing their political status and socio-economic space," he said during the seminar, as he recalled serving in Pakistan and leading Saudi relief efforts after an earthquake that devastated Kashmir in 2005.  

Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to Pakistan, Ali Awadh Asseri, participates in a seminar organized in Riyadh by the Pakistani embassy to observe Kashmir Black Day on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. (Pakistan Embassy Riyadh via AN)

He said the relief could not reach the Indian-administered part of the territory, as New Delhi did not grant access. "We remember that Kashmir on the other side of LOC also faced devastating effects of the earthquake but could not do much due to lack of access by the Indian authorities."

"Kashmiri people want to live their lives according to their free will and India has denied this basic right and instead chosen the path of repression," Asseri added.

"The Kashmiri demand of self-determination is not only the moral right but also legally justified under UN security council resolutions."

India on Wednesday notified new laws that allow non-Kashmiris to buy land in the disputed region, rising concerns that the new regulation would dilute the Muslim-majority character of the region.

"Contrary to Indian claims of bringing development to the Kashmir valley, the real motive remains altering the demographics of the Muslim-majority territory," Islamabad's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Raja Ali Ejaz, told Arab News after the seminar.

He added that the Pakistani government remains "fully committed to the Kashmir cause."