Palatial mansion: Pakistan’s biggest and busiest diplomatic mission

Published: October 22, 2012
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The ambassador’s residential complex was reconstructed in a record time. PHOTO: EXPRESS

The ambassador’s residential complex was reconstructed in a record time. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KABUL: Situated in the Karte Parwan neighbourhood of Kabul is Pakistan’s diplomatic mission. Steeped in history, the embassy building and the adjoining ambassador’s residence together form the country’s single biggest mission in the world – a frontispiece to our public diplomacy abroad.

Inaugurated in July 2012, the sprawling grounds of the Quaid-e-Azam Complex cover more than 26 acres of land that once belonged to the British Legation in Kabul. Today it may well be Pakistan’s busiest diplomatic mission.

On any week day (from Sunday to Thursday) one is likely to find thousands of Afghans queuing up outside the Pakistan Embassy for a visa. “Up to 12,000 multiple [entry] visas are issued every day. Not a single application has been rejected so far,” says Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq. This figure may seem high, according to officials, but it pales in comparison to the sheer number of people who make border crossings every day between the two countries. Currently, Pakistani officials say, 56,000 people travel between Pakistan and Afghanistan through both designated and undesignated crossing points daily — mainly for trade and business purposes.

The main embassy buildings are now housed in what used to be the dispensary of the British Legation buildings in the Afghan capital. In one corner of the premises, English-language and computer classes are held for Afghan students, especially those in the neighborhood. “The classes are free and are part of the embassy’s effort to encourage education,” says an official.

The next door residential complex of the ambassador is much grander, still reflecting the colonial glory that Lord George Curzon, the then foreign secretary, had wanted Britain’s top envoy in Kabul to have. Curzon, also a former viceroy general of India, did not live to see the majestic Legation structure, dying two years before its completion. The Legation buildings in Kabul sprang up some eight years after Britain signed the 1919 Treaty of Rawalpindi which officially recognised the independence of Afghanistan.

Though Pakistan’s right to the Legation buildings’ ownership was recognised by the early 1960s, Islamabad had to wait three more decades for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to finally accede to its possession. But the property did not pass into Pakistan’s hands until another decade and a half. By that time it had already been ransacked by a violent mob and suffered a vicious arson attack. Several buildings, including a church and smaller residences, were razed to the ground. Perhaps the only building that escaped harm was the clock tower that stands near one of the boundary walls.

When Ambassador Sadiq moved into the gleaming white palatial building this year following a massive renovation of the premises, President Hamid Karzai took a gentle swipe at the envoy. “I see you have moved into your vice-regal seat,” Karzai was quoted as telling Sadiq.

The entire building was reconstructed in a record time. “Despite the huge challenge, it took us about six months to restore the complex,” a Pakistan Embassy official said. Another official said the funds saved through the [earlier used] Wazir Akbar Khan mission were spent on the restoration work. “We used that money for restoration and saved thousands of dollars in the bargain,” the official explained.

From the vantage point of the ambassador’s residence, one can see a freshly-manicured cricket ground and an equally impressive soccer pitch. And in the distance one can see the snow-capped Hindu Kush mountains. The sight would have certainly pleased Curzon no end.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd,  2012.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • Jaferi
    Oct 22, 2012 - 10:45AM

    “Up to 12,000 multiple [entry] visas
    are issued every day. Not a single
    application has been rejected so far,”

    Why?

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  • ahmed
    Oct 22, 2012 - 11:03AM

    . “Up to 12,000 multiple [entry] visas are issued every day. Not a single application has been rejected so far,” says Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq. Wow so anyone can get visa no rejection. Good keep it up.

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  • Jinnah Jehan
    Oct 22, 2012 - 11:53AM

    You really need 26 acres of well manicured palatial land to give almost automatic visas to Afghans since no one is ever rejected. Our government and its administrators act like the most entitled brats in the word and every year they go and ask for bakshish from IMF and World Bank. These people are shameless.

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  • Pakboy
    Oct 22, 2012 - 12:35PM

    That’s one nice looking building.
    Please change Pakistan’s consulate building in Jeddah. The current one can easily qualify for UNESCO world heritage.

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  • sanwal
    Oct 22, 2012 - 1:34PM

    @Pakboy

    Good one buddy, you made my day -:)

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  • Mj
    Oct 22, 2012 - 1:39PM

    Quite a grand and beautiful structure. A front shot would’ve been a welcome addition.

    @Pakboy:

    You’ve brought back some bad memories of waiting for hours in a cramped hall with hundreds of people and a single A/C. Even some poor African nations have better consulates compared to the Pakistani mission in Jeddah. I second your motion for the building to be declared a world heritage site.

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  • roadkashehzada
    Oct 22, 2012 - 2:08PM

    very good to see a nice Pakistani embassy. FYI embassy of Pakistan in Abu Dhabi issues 250 tokens everyday to its own citizens for passport renewal. pales compared to 12k afghanis entertained in Kabul embassy

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  • parveen
    Oct 22, 2012 - 5:41PM

    And here I was under the illusion that we are poor country hence the begging bowl. So abroad English language classes and computer classes are conducted……and here one can go blue in the face asking for education for all. Cricket ground and soccer pitch! What no golf course?

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  • Khalq e Khuda
    Oct 22, 2012 - 9:53PM

    @Jaferi:

    I doubt if someone who is going through the hassle of obtaining a visa at Pakistani embassy in Kabul has ill-intentions: you don’t really need a visa to crossover from Afghanistan into Pakistan.

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  • amer nadeem
    Oct 22, 2012 - 11:01PM

    is this lavish matches with trade, business & foreign policy gottens for Pakistan?

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  • Iman Hasan Pakistan Embassy, Kabul
    Oct 22, 2012 - 11:05PM

    Just to put the record straight: up to 1200 multiple entry visas are issued to Afghan nationals every day. The new visa policy was adopted to encourage the documented travel of Afghan citizens to Pakistan instead of illegal travel. Hardly any visa applicants are refused, as those who intend to remain in Pakistan illegally would not bother to line up infornt of the Embassy for a visa.

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  • Iman Hasan Pakistan Embassy, Kabul
    Oct 22, 2012 - 11:14PM

    @Jinnah Jehan:

    It is regrettable that you came down so strongly without knowing or even trying to find the facts. Pakistan got the property in division of assets of British India as its successor state. It was ransacked by an Afghan mob during the civil war and remain abandoned for 18 years. The current Ambassador took the daunting initiative to reclaim the property. It is Pakistan’s national asset now. It has already saved millions of dollars of tax payers money that the government has been paying for the rented buildings of the Embassy.

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  • khalsa
    Oct 22, 2012 - 11:24PM

    India built parliament, transmission line and roads in afghanistan and pakistan built embassy. this shows lack of priority in dealing with other strategically important countries

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  • Lala Gee
    Oct 23, 2012 - 3:50AM

    @khalsa:

    “ndia built parliament, transmission line and roads in afghanistan and pakistan built embassy.”

    And your embassy and two dozen consulates work from footpath?

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  • Robert
    Oct 23, 2012 - 6:25AM

    @Lala Gee, can you list the two dozen consulates you are talking about?

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  • Aijaz Haider
    Oct 23, 2012 - 7:23AM

    “On any week day (from Sunday to Thursday) one is likely to find thousands of Afghans queuing up outside the Pakistan Embassy for a visa. “Up to 12,000 multiple [entry] visas are issued every day. Not a single application has been rejected so far,” says Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq.”
    Announce that no entry visa is required to enter Pakistan, close the embassy and use it as a mosque / madarasah for free entering Afghans to tell them that they should not settle in Pakistan and return to Afghanistan after free tours.
    Regards.

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  • Oct 23, 2012 - 9:24AM

    There should be no visa requirement between Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is the way it is between USA and Canada. You do not need visa to cross the border. Just show the passport of your country and you can cross the border. Your entry is recorded in the computer and that’s it

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  • Khan
    Nov 9, 2012 - 11:55AM

    @Shahid Butt:
    I bet the persons who works in our Embassy are just as genius too .. You do realize that Canada is a developed nation and USA doesn’t and has never hosted up to 5 Million Canadian and they only go there either for visit or for business purposes and not for living illegally or to be involved in crimes.

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  • Nov 9, 2012 - 1:23PM

    Thanks for your comment after 16 days of my comment.

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