Only transit passengers, no refugees coming to Pakistan this time: officials
Islamabad: Pakistan is making swift arrangements to host thousands of foreigners and Afghan nationals being evacuated from Kabul. However, they will only include transit passengers as Pakistan has decided not to allow refugees.
Pakistan agreed to host foreigners and their allies after urgent requests by the US, UK and five other Nato states after the devastating bomb attacks at Kabul airport as the massive airlift operation by Western countries entered its final stage with the August 31 deadline drawing nearer.
Pakistan would grant urgent permission, visa and short stay, to transit passengers including Western diplomats, citizens and Afghan nationals, according to Pakistani media reports.
The flights are expected to arrive in Islamabad and Karachi. It is unclear if the flights would arrive at city airports or the airbases as currently only C-17 and other military cargo aircraft flights are assisting in the evacuation and commercial flights have not resumed.
Since August 14, Western countries have evacuated nearly 100,000 people from Afghanistan.
Pakistan has “helped evacuate more than 7,000 people from 18 countries leaving Kabul” and at least 500 were flown out of Kabul by PIA in “difficult security situation,” Pakistan’s national security advisor Moeed Yusuf told BBC radio 4. “Pakistan has always been on the frontlines of humanitarian assistance” and is currently “working with international community day and night” to help evacuate via air and land borders, he added.
At least 1,051 people have been evacuated via the Torkham border, according to APP. The number of Pakistani nationals evacuated is 987, including 104 by air.
On Thursday night, after the reports of multiple bombings in Kabul, the Islamabad administration asked local hotels to arrange accommodation for foreigners being evacuated from Afghanistan, local officials said. Security measures have also been beefed up, with police and paramilitary personnel put on high alert following directives by the government.
An estimated 6,000 people mostly diplomats, embassy workers and Afghans who facilitated the US and Nato missions are expected to reach Islamabad and Karachi for their onward travel to other destinations, according to sources. Many others are expected to reach by buses and cars via Torkham border.
Around 4,000 foreigners and Afghans may be allowed to stay in Karachi at designated hotels and guests houses for a brief period while Islamabad city would host limited numbers due to security reasons. In Karachi, security officials have held series of meetings to ensure the safety and security of the guests and to restrict their movement only within designated and secure areas.
In a press briefing on Friday evening, Pakistan’s armed forces spokesperson, Major General Babar Iftikhar, said the military has “secured” Pakistan’s side of the 2,611-km long border by fencing 90 per cent of the Pak-Afghan border and installing border forts, surveillance systems and employing the latest technology to ward off “any spillover of insecurity and instability into Pakistan.”
DG ISPR Gen Iftikhar said that “no refugees” have crossed into Pakistan since the Taliban takeover. Pakistan-Afghanistan border was “normal and under control”.
Pakistan, which is currently hosting more than 3 million Afghan refugees including 1.4 million registered, has said that it does not have the capacity or the economic resources to host more Afghan refugees.
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