Kabul may airlift Afghans if border not reopened

Observer Report

Islamabad

Afghanistan’s envoy in Islamabad on Saturday said he will urge his government to arrange special flights to airlift Afghan nationals stranded in Pakistan if the country did not reopen the border within two days.
Pakistani authorities closed the border with Afghanistan on February 16 after 88 people were killed in a suicide bombing at the shrine of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, Sindh.
Speaking to media on Saturday, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal said he had once again pressed Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz to reopen the border in their second meeting in the last three days.
Zakhilwal charged that the border closure “cannot have any other explanation except to be aimed at hurting common Afghan people.” However, in a statement posted on his official Facebook account, the envoy claimed the closure was hurting Pakistan’s economy more. “Pakistan’s declining export share in Afghanistan is indicative of that.”
The ambassador contended that the continuous closure of trade routes “goes in direct contradiction to the theme and objectives of the recently held ECO summit that Pakistan hosted and led.” He did not agree with the argument that the border closure is necessary to prevent terrorists’ movement, saying crossing points like Torkham and Spin Boldak were manned by hundreds of military and security personnel.
Zakhilwal said Pakistani authorities had repeatedly assured him that the crossing points would be partially opened to allow the around 25,000 Afghan visitors stranded in Pakistan to return to their country. “But this hasn’t happened yet.”
Because of this, the envoy said he had told Sartaj Aziz that he would ask his government to arrange chartered flights for the stranded Afghans if the border was not reopened, at least partially, in two days’ time.

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