ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said on Monday that Pakistan had not granted refugee status to a single person from Afghanistan so far, amid the evacuation of foreigners and Afghans following the Taliban takeover of Kabul.
Speaking at a presser, he said that the reports of possible influx of Afghan refugees are premature as not a single Afghani has been given refugee status so far.
“Despite all the expectations (of refugees influx), not a single person from Afghanistan has been granted refugee status till now not one refugee has been given permission as we’ve not taken a single Afghani as a ‘Muhajir’ so far,” he declared.
About last week’s suicide attack outside Kabul airport, which killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 personnel of the US Marine corps, he said: “We expected there would be influx of refugees but it didn’t happen”.
The minister said that Pakistan is a responsible country, which would fulfil its duty of national security and its international expectations, as we made “history” by facilitating the Afghan peace process.
He clarified that people from Afghanistan arrive in Pakistan via the Chaman border on a daily basis and then go back to their country, adding that this was a normal activity.
He also said that Pakistan has made arrangements to accommodate 3,000 people in Islamabad only, adding that any person from any nationality, who comes to Pakistan from Afghanistan, will be granted a transit visa of 21 days.
He said Pakistan Army is the world’s greatest army, adding that they had fenced the border and were keeping a close watch over the movement of the people.
To a question on Pakistanis repatriated from Afghanistan, he said that all Pakistanis have been evacuated except a few people who are married to Afghan women.
“Some 30 to 40 people do not want to come as are married to Afghan women there…they’ve families and children and said they are happy there,” he added.
The minister also provided updates on Pakistan’s facilitation of evacuees from Afghanistan, saying 1,627 people had been flown in, while another 2,100 had been granted on-arrival visas at the Torkham border.
He said arrangements had been made to host 3,000 people in Islamabad and transit visas of 21-30 days would be provided to individuals of any nationality.
The interior minister explained that Pakistan was not bearing any expense for the evacuation process, with the organisations sponsoring the evacuees responsible for their costs, adding that airplanes parked at the country’s airports were also paying parking fees.
Besides, he said that the hotel accommodations being provided to evacuees awaiting transit were also not free of cost.
He reiterated that Taliban had reassured the government that they would not allow Afghanistan to be used for terrorist activities against Pakistan, adding that the army was still present and defending the borders.
Rashid criticized India, saying that New Delhi can use militant groups to carry out subversive activities in Pakistan. He said Islamabad hoped Afghanistan would not allow its territory to be used against Pakistan.
He said that Pakistan was the only country in the world that had sacrificed 80,000-plus lives to establish peace in Afghanistan and the region.
He censured India, saying that the country’s news channels are attempting to malign Pakistan through propaganda.
While speaking about the presence of Daesh in Afghanistan, he said that Pakistan is hopeful that Taliban would not let their soil be used against its neighbouring country.
“Daesh fighters are present in Nuristan and in the mountains of Kunar,” he admitted.
Responding to the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)’s announcement of a march onto Islamabad, he said they were welcome to do so, but no one would be allowed to take law into their hands.
He criticised the opposition for exhibiting irresponsibility and not understanding the political environment, while Pakistan was becoming the centre of international politics.
The interior minister questioned what the opposition hoped to achieve with its march and said it would be “trapped” and “regret” it.
Instead, Rashid advised the opposition to prepare for the election, saying no matter how hard they try, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is going to complete its five-year term.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021