Afghanistan to airlift citizens if crossing points with Pak is not reopened within two days, says Afghan ambassador

quetta-attack-zakhilwal-slams-pak-officialsISLAMABAD: Afghan Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal on Saturday said Pakistan does not have a justification for the continued closure of crossing points with Afghanistan on Durand Line, and that his country might send in chartered flights to airlift stranded Afghans in case the crossing points are not reopened soon.

In a message posted to his Facebook page, Zakhilwal said he had talked with Pakistan’s de facto foreign minister, Sartaj Aziz, to convey that if an opening was not allowed for the return of stranded Afghans within two days, he would ask his government to send chartered flights to lift them.

“This, however, would reflect very poorly [for Pakistan],” he added.

Zakhilwal said the argument presented by Pakistan — that the crossing points closure is intended to stop terrorists from crossing over — does not carry any weight, as “these points such as Torkham and Spin Boldak have been manned by hundreds of military and other security personnel” and have all the necessary equipment and infrastructure in place to prevent such a possibility.

“Continuous unreasonable closure of legal Pak-Afghan trade and transit routes cannot have any other explanation except to be aimed at hurting the common Afghan people,” the envoy said in his social media post, apparently in breach of diplomatic protocol.

The envoy emphasised that the closure of crossing points hurts bilateral trade between the two countries, with Pakistan losing more as a result of the closures.

“Pakistan’s declining export share in Afghanistan is indicative of that,” Zakhilwal said.

He also said the closure is in direct contradiction to the theme, objectives and messages of the recently-held Economic Cooperation Organisation summit in Islamabad.

Afghanistan’s top envoy said he had raised the issue of at least 25,000 Afghan nationals who had been unable to return to their country due to the closure, and have not been able to return despite repeated assurances in the past few weeks.

He elaborated that he had been given assurances that a partial opening of crossing points will be allowed to facilitate his countrymen, who he claimed had come to Pakistan either for medical treatment or personal visits.

The government had decided to seal the Torkham crossing points for an indefinite period on February 16, in the aftermath of a suicide attack at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar which killed 90.

Pakistan closed the crossing points with Afghanistan on Durand line after terrorist attacks in the country last month. The deadliest of these attacks were the one that target sufi Shrine in Sindh where around 100 people were killed and scores wounded.

THE PASHTUN TIMES

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