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October 18, 2019

Visa seekers suffering due to closure of Afghan Consulate in Peshawar


October 18, 2019

PESHAWAR: Those seeking visas for Afghanistan, including Afghans and Pakistanis, have been suffering due to the closure of the Afghan Consulate General in the city.

Located at the Mall Road in the Peshawar Cantonment, the Afghan Consulate building had been shut down on October 10 as a mark of protest after the local administration got vacated the Afghan Market in the following a court verdict in favour of a citizen claiming its ownership.

The visa seekers and general visitors to the Afghan Consulate are stopped and sent back at the Pakistan Army checkpost on the Mall Road owing to the closure of the consulate. A simple statement written on the main gate of the consulate says: “The consulate is closed for an indefinite period.” A security guard deputed at the main gate told this scribe that no one was allowed to enter the building.

The windows from where the visa seekers used to get their visas on their passports during the working hours were also shut.

“I have been trying to visit the consulate for the last many days to get back my passport but the soldiers don’t allow me to cross the roadside checkpost,” said an elderly Afghan national Said Qayyum. He wished early opening of the Afghan Consulate in Peshawar.

An official at the Afghan Consulate told this scribe that about 500 visa seekers and general visitors used to come on a daily basis when the consulate was working, but not a single person has been seen outside the visa-window since its closure.

The Afghan Embassy in Islamabad had condemned the overnight raid on the Afghan Market in Peshawar and accused the provincial government of making a “unilateral decision” regarding the longstanding dispute over the market’s ownership. A statement issued by the Afghan embassy in Pakistan said: “Afghanistan’s flag was removed from the building and such actions are against diplomatic norms.”

Kabul claims the Afghan Market is a property of Afghanistan’s national bank. However, the Supreme Court of Pakistan last week ruled that a Pakistani citizen was the owner, and ordered the city authorities to get the building vacated and hand it over to the owner.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office in a statement had said that the market issue was between a private citizen and a purported bank from Afghanistan. “The recent enforcement action by the local administration occurred after legal remedies were exhausted by the Afghan party to this legal dispute,” the statement said. It regretted the announcement that the Consulate General of Afghanistan in Peshawar has been closed in protest.

Thousands of Afghan nationals and Afghan refugees are living in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Afghan Consulate in Peshawar is the nearest point to get their visa or get other issues resolved. Likewise, hundreds of people from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who either seek visit visa or renewal of their visas for Afghanistan, approach the Afghan Consulate in Peshawar but they are facing numerous problems due to its closure. The Afghan consul general in Peshawar, Mohammad Hashim Niazi, was repeatedly contacted on his office and personal cell numbers but he did not respond.

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