- Interior Minister says Pakistan will not be bearing the expenses of incoming foreign nationals from Afghanistan
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said no Afghan who has arrived in Pakistan as part of evacuation efforts has been given "refugee status" yet, stressing that Islamabad has not taken incoming citizens of other countries as refugees.
The minister's remarks come as Pakistan continues to welcome foreign nationals, including Afghans, as the US completes its troop withdrawal. With the situation in Kabul highly volatile, many countries have stepped up evacuation efforts with Pakistan becoming the natural transit country. Islamabad has already announced that it would grant a transit visa of 21 days as foreign nationals prepare to leave for their destination country.
Talking to the media in Islamabad, Rashid said that Pakistan will also not bear the expenses of people coming into the country. “The companies sponsoring them are paying for their stay here,” he said.
He added that the planes stationed at Pakistan's airports are paying the parking fee, adding that "we have no issues with it".
"We were ready and prepared to accommodate 3,000 people in Islamabad, but flights are not coming as quickly as expected which means we have not reached this designated capacity yet."
The minister reiterated that any person from any nationality who comes to Pakistan from Afghanistan will be granted a transit visa of 21 days.
He added that so far 1,627 people have arrived in Pakistan via the air route, while over 2,100 people entered the country through the Torkham border. "We had been expecting a huge refugee influx from Afghanistan, but not a single person came to Pakistan as a refugee."
The minister made it clear that all Pakistanis have been evacuated from Afghanistan and only 30 to 40 people are there who do not want to return due to personal reasons.
Meanwhile, Rashid said Pakistan’s role in Afghan peace process has been historic.
The interior minister lauded Pakistan Army’s role in securing the Afghan border, saying the entire border is being guarded by brave soldiers and it would be defended at all costs.
Last week, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar had said the situation on Pakistan-Afghanistan international border is under control and the armed forces are ready to handle it if something happens.
DG ISPR also said that movement from across the border is allowed only to those who are in possession of valid documents, adding that only five crossing points are currently open for trade, while 73 have been closed for security reasons.
Answering a question regarding the increasing firing incidents on the military posts from Afghanistan, Rashid said that the Afghan Taliban have assured us that the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) will not be allowed to use Afghanistan soil against Pakistan.
The interior minister also spoke about the presence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-K) in Afghanistan, saying the group has a long-running rivalry with the Taliban and has been defeated in many parts of the country.
The Afghan Taliban, who have claimed control over a major part of Afghanistan, recently asked Pakistan to hold talks with the TTP in response to Pakistan’s request to take action against the outlawed organisation.