ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan is offering one-year multiple visas to Pakistani journalists as part of its policy to streamline the travel process and make it easier to visit Kabul, Ambassador Dr Omar Zakhilwal announced here on Sunday.
Pakistani journalists previously used to get Afghan visas for specific visits only after the approval of the Afghan foreign ministry. It was a time consuming process, but now their visa section will issue visas in a short time, usually within a day, in line with the ambassador’s announcement.
A group of three Pakistani journalists of state-owned and private TV channels, who were part of an official delegation, were recently granted one-year multiple entry visas.
Dr Zakhilwal, who is also a special representative of President Ashraf Ghani for Pakistan, said on Sunday that he has eased the visa issuing process for Pakistani nationals in general but particularly for businesspeople, politicians, media, civil society representatives and youth.
“I have made visas easier in general. My focus is to change the current environment of mistrust,” the Afghan ambassador told The Express Tribune.
“And that is possible by allowing broader interaction between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The first important step in that direction is to allow and facilitate broader interaction,” he added.
Dr Zakhilwal said that he wants enhanced interaction between media, businessmen, youth and politicians of the two countries.
Pakistan and Afghanistan do not charge for the visas on a reciprocal basis.
Pakistan Embassy officials in Kabul say they have a “friendly visa regime” for Afghanistan and routinely issue visas to Afghan media persons on the same day or at most in 48 hours.
Pakistan Embassy’s spokesman, Akhtar Munir, says the country’s diplomatic missions issue 1,500 to 2,000 visas to Afghans every day.
“Pakistan’s visa rejection for Afghans is zero,” the embassy spokesman, told The Express Tribune on Sunday.
Pakistan, he said, has adopted a more flexible visa policy for Afghans in the region, adding that Afghans are routinely granted 6-month visas. Visas are issued to patients and to those in urgency, he said.
Munir said annually, Pakistani embassy and its four consulates issue upto 500,000 visas to Afghans.
Afghan and Pakistani officials are talking about flexibility in issuance of visas at a time when latest remarks by some Afghan officials about Pakistan could lead to mistrust between the two countries.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2016.