Delays curtailing trade activities between the two neighbours in particular
ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan is delaying the issuing of assignment visas to Pakistani officials posted in diplomatic missions on its soil, sources familiar with the issue told The Express Tribune on Saturday.
“Pakistan had appointed Kamal Hussain as a commercial assistant for its embassy in Kabul, but he has not been issued a visa yet,” an official source said about the office which has been vacant since August. “Nine more cases of assignment visas for Pakistani officials have also been pending for months,” the source added.
Afghanistan’s foreign ministry did not respond to a query sent to its official address but sources in the war-torn country voiced similar complaints.
Afghan official also face long delays when applying for visas or visa extensions, they said. Khan Muhammad Mangal, an official of the education section of the Afghan Consulate in Peshawar, and Habib Rahman Shams, deputy refugee attache at the Peshawar Consulate have been waiting for over a year to get their Pakistani visas extended, one Afghan source said.
An official, however, disputed the claim saying Pakistan issues assignment visas to Afghan officials within a week. He said Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul and consulates in Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kandahar and Herat issue up to 2,500 visas a day to common Afghans.
“Our visa rejection ratio for Afghans is almost zero. Pakistan has adopted a very flexible visa regime to accommodate many Afghans,” the official said. “We want the Afghan government to reciprocate our goodwill gesture.”
An official source said that delay in the issuance of visa to the commercial assistant is badly affecting trade activities between the two countries. “Afghan traders, businessmen and transporters are worst affected by this. The commercial section is almost dysfunctional as there is no one to deal with commercial activities,” he said.
Representatives of Afghanistan’s chambers of commerce have also approached and conveyed concerns over the issue to the Afghan foreign ministry as theirs contact with the commercial section of the Pakistani embassy has almost come to a halt.
The delay in the visa of Pakistani commercial official could also affect contacts ahead of the Joint Economic Commission that is rescheduled to be held in Islamabad in November.
Pakistani and Afghan sources said that they have repeatedly contacted respective foreign ministries; however, they said the issue is still unresolved.
Delays in the issuance of assignment visas to Pakistani officials could be the result of the diplomatic current tensions between the uneasy neighbours.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2015.