Neighbourly initiatives: Islamabad, Kabul set to relax travel procedures

Published: March 2, 2015
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Bilateral treaty to exchange prisoners also likely to be signed soon. PHOTO: REUTERS

Bilateral treaty to exchange prisoners also likely to be signed soon. PHOTO: REUTERS

PESHAWAR: 

In the wake of growing understanding and coordination between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the two neighbours are going to ease travel procedures for their citizens and ink a treaty on prisoner swaps.

“We are going to revive the system of travel between the two countries through Rahdaris,” a responsible civil officer in the political administration of Khyber Agency at Torkham told The Express Tribune. A Pakistani diplomat in Kabul also confirmed the in-principle decision for signing the treaty to swap prisoners.

Besides, the government is also working on a plan to allow those Afghans permanently residing in Pakistan who are engaged in economic activities and own properties.

On Thursday, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak had welcomed the proposed move and termed it beneficial for the country.

Travelling through Rahdari system between Pakistan and Afghanistan is not something new but had been in vogue since the days of the Raj until it was terminated in the late ‘80s.

Under this system, a yellow card is issued to citizens of the two countries on entry points, which is inscribed with complete data of the person along with address of his stay and permanent residence.

This card also indicates the duration of the person’s stay in the host country.

The Pakistani diplomats in Kabul told The Express Tribune that in light of the recent shift in policies of both the countries, a treaty regarding exchange of prisoners is now under consideration.

According to the proposed treaty, not only wanted elements could be handed over to the law enforcing agencies of the relevant country but other prisoners convicted in civil and criminal cases could also be shifted to their native country to serve out their remaining jail term.

Pakistani officials, diplomats and Pakistan-based Afghan envoys had since long been demanding such treaties to be inked as hundreds of prisoners are languishing in different jails.

Recently, Pakistani authorities and diplomats in Afghanistan realised the importance of a treaty for exchange or extradition of prisoners, when the Afghan government had captured at least six suspected militants, allegedly involved in the December 16 brutal attack on Army Public School in Peshawar.

Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani on February 22 during his informal chat confirmed the arrest of six suspects, including five Pakistanis, after the APS attack.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2015.

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