ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Monday his government was issuing one month visas-on-arrival to all foreigners traveling from Kabul to Islamabad, adding that the Afghan Taliban had assured his country they would not allow the outlawed Pakistan Taliban to use Afghan soil for attacks against Pakistan.
The Pakistan Taliban, or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, is a separate militant group from the one in Afghanistan. The group has claimed responsibility for several past attacks in Pakistan, including the 2014 deadly attack on a Peshawar school that killed 154 people, mostly schoolchildren, and an attack on Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai.
Ahmed said Islamabad was playing an “important role” in the evacuation of foreigners, including Americans, from Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover on August 15.
The US and other western countries have been struggling to fly out their citizens from Afghanistan as chaos and panic have gripped the war-torn nation.
“Our border crossings with Afghanistan remain open, but we aren’t allowing Afghan refugees in,” the interior minister said while addressing a press conference in Islamabad.
The South Asian nation has so far processed the immigration of 1,277 foreigners and allowed 874 people to enter Pakistan through the Torkham border, the minister said, adding that around 500 people were in transit in Pakistan.
“We are issuing a one-month visas on arrival to foreigners including World Bank and IMF officials to facilitate their evacuation [from Kabul],” he said, adding that the Pakistani embassy in Kabul had issued visas to 4,000 people who wanted to flee the country after the Taliban takeover. People identified as being COVID-19 positive were being quarantined at border camps, the minister said.
Ahmed said Pakistan was enhancing its capacity at the Kabul embassy to issue more visas in case of an emergency but added that Islamabad was not responsible for chaos and anarchy at the Kabul airport: “This is not our responsibility, to bring people [from different parts of Afghanistan] to the Kabul airport.”
About the presence of the Pakistan Taliban in Afghanistan, he confirmed that some TTP members such as Maulvi Faqeer Mohammad had been released from prison by the Taliban after their takeover of Kabul.
“We have contacted people there [in Afghanistan] over the issue, and the Taliban have assured us that they won’t let the TTP use Afghanistan soil [against Pakistan],” the minister said.
About attacks on Chinese nationals working on projects in Pakistan, Ahmed said the Pakistan army was looking after the security of at least 40 companies working on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and all other institutions were working to formulate a strategy to provide fool-proof security to both the projects and workers.