Kabul may airlift stranded Afghans if Pakistan border not reopened

Published: March 4, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan’s envoy in Islamabad on Saturday said he will urge his government to arrange special flights to airlift Afghan nationals stranded in Pakistan if the country did not reopen the border within two days.

Pakistani authorities closed the border with Afghanistan on February 16 after 88 people were killed in a suicide bombing at the shrine of popular Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, Sindh. A high-level huddle of the civil and military leaders on Friday decided to keep the border close till adjoining regions are purged of remnants of terrorists.

Pak-Afghan border to stay closed till region cleansed

Afghan officials say the move has stranded hundreds of Afghan citizens who entered Pakistan last month for business or medical purposes.

Speaking to The Express Tribune on Saturday, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal said he had once again pressed Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz to reopen the border in their second meeting in the last three days.

Zakhilwal also met Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan to seek his support towards this end.

“Closure of Pak-Afghan border is building into a humanitarian crisis. The two governments need to cooperate effectively on cross-border terrorism,” Imran tweeted after meeting the Afghan envoy on Saturday. “Those with valid travel documents and perishable goods should be allowed to cross the border to mitigate suffering of ordinary people on both sides,” the PTI leader said on the microblogging website.

Zakhilwal charged that the border closure “cannot have any other explanation except to be aimed at hurting common Afghan people.” However, in a statement posted on his official Facebook account, the envoy claimed the closure was hurting Pakistan’s economy more. “Pakistan’s declining export share in Afghanistan is indicative of that.”

The ambassador contended that the continuous closure of trade routes “goes in direct contradiction to the theme and objectives of the recently held ECO summit that Pakistan hosted and led.” He did not agree with the argument that the border closure is necessary to prevent terrorists’ movement, saying crossing points like Torkham and Spin Boldak were manned by hundreds of military and security personnel.

ECO members for collective efforts against terrorism, drug trafficking

Zakhilwal said Pakistani authorities had repeatedly assured him that the crossing points would be partially opened to allow the around 25,000 Afghan visitors stranded in Pakistan to return to their country. “But this hasn’t happened yet.”

Because of this, the envoy said he had told Sartaj Aziz that he would ask his government to arrange chartered flights for the stranded Afghans if the border was not reopened, at least partially, in two days’ time.

Imran calls for resuming talks with Kabul

After his meeting with Zakhilwal at his Bani Gala residence in Islamabad, Imran Khan urged both Pakistan and Afghanistan to resume dialogue to improve their worsening ties.

“Both governments are required to engage in serious dialogue to resolve pending issues,” read a statement issued by PTI’s central media wing after the meeting. “Pakistan should take immediate measures to ensure the return of Afghan nationals trapped inside Pakistan due to the sudden closure of Afghan border with Pakistan,” it quoted Imran as saying. The PTI chief also called for measures to minimise the loss of traders due to the border closure.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (22)

  • Ts
    Mar 4, 2017 - 10:15PM

    No need to open border until afghans secure the border on their side asapRecommend

  • chengez k
    Mar 4, 2017 - 10:23PM

    Afghanistan should either opt for India or Pakistan…….Recommend

  • point
    Mar 4, 2017 - 10:26PM

    can he please airlift 2/5 of their population living all over Pakistan !!Recommend

  • me
    Mar 4, 2017 - 11:00PM

    Yes please airlift your stranded afghans .Border will remain closed!!!!Recommend

  • Shah
    Mar 4, 2017 - 11:50PM

    @chengez k:
    At least for once, these afghan crooks should start using their own brains; Realize that road is not thru Hindus-tan; If they want to live like normal people instead of running behindRapistan Hindus-tan; then it is time to wake up; Send the 76 persons to Pakistan on the list provided to you by Pakistan… the sooner you come to your senses, it is better for you; Recommend

  • Ammad
    Mar 5, 2017 - 1:06AM

    Border should be open as soon as possible.Recommend

  • F Khan
    Mar 5, 2017 - 9:41AM

    You too,Brutus?…………………Recommend

  • Faisal Afzal
    Mar 5, 2017 - 10:49AM

    Afghan government setting new standards for caring for their nationals. 2.5 Million left.Recommend

  • LOL
    Mar 5, 2017 - 10:52AM

    looks like India is of no use to Afghanistan now. LOL.Recommend

  • nasir
    Mar 5, 2017 - 12:05PM

    please take all others too why 25000 only?Recommend

  • Pakistani bloach
    Mar 5, 2017 - 2:08PM

    use chabahar port instead of pakistan transit rout oh sorry chabahar was/is a dream.y not go through india for trade and medical care?oops you cant cause they only use you against pakistan and dont give a flying f for your sufferingsRecommend

  • Saeed Masood
    Mar 5, 2017 - 2:39PM

    On one side they are so dependent on Pakistan that they cannot exist without Business and Medical from Pakistan and on the other hand they dance on Indian music and kill innocent Pakistani people and children, Pakistan forces should silence them once of all and stop doing these favors.Recommend

  • J
    Mar 5, 2017 - 2:59PM

    What happened to the concept of muslin brotherhood, UMMAH and ECO?Recommend

  • Guest
    Mar 5, 2017 - 3:07PM

    We can only do as much as we have already tried but the Afghans have behaved cutting if the hand that feeds them.India has used them for their own proxy wars.Terroism has to be wiped out of Pakistan and if the borders close so be it.The Afghan govt and USA is responsible for their predicament.USA should do MORE.Pakistan doesn’t even apply any transit tax on goods transported through Pakistan.Time for Afghans to wake up to realityRecommend

  • Aware Citizen
    Mar 5, 2017 - 3:26PM

    Peace not exists there, where no justice prevails ! For decades we kept opened Pak Afghan border for getting foreign aids.People traveled without passports and visa.Ab Aisa nahi challey ga ! Why only Afghans only given this relaxation ? Open India Pakistan border also so Urdu speaking migrants/relatives people easily travel and meet their relatives too. This one sided love based on discrimination should be ended.There should be uniform border management/ security,vigilance system on all borders.In past what we planted now we are eating !!!!!!!!Recommend

  • Billa
    Mar 5, 2017 - 3:57PM

    Be my guest and air lift ALL of them. Then rehouse them in India.Recommend

  • Zahid Hameed
    Mar 5, 2017 - 5:17PM

    You should tell your father india to uplift 2.5 million from pakistan and provide them the place to live in their country. Tell Ashraf Ghani to arrange home and food the one suffering now. Killing innocent Pakistani is a big humanitarian issue as well. Recommend

  • Qaiser Ahmed
    Mar 5, 2017 - 5:36PM

    Please Do.And, yes, take all your drug dealers too.Recommend

  • FAZ
    Mar 6, 2017 - 5:53AM

    Hurting Pakistani economy??
    Does he ever googled how much Pakistan lost due to those Afghan wars? We made huge mistake in the first place of helping themRecommend

  • JA
    Mar 6, 2017 - 8:40AM

    Dear Zakhilwal go do it, and take other 2.5 million as well, ask your friend India for financingRecommend

  • ARM
    Mar 6, 2017 - 3:48PM

    Afghanis should be driven out of Pakistan they didn`t deserve to be here in PakistanRecommend

  • Asadullah Mahmood
    Mar 8, 2017 - 12:33AM

    Pakistan should have allowed the airlift without opening the borders. That would have gone to be an admission by the Afghan Govt. of the de jure status of the Durand Line.Recommend

More in K-P