Despite the launch of e-visa facility for Afghan nationals by Pakistan, the troubles of those people who want to cross into Pakistan at the Torkham border are far from over.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Afghan nationals said that around 75% of people who cross the Torkham border into Pakistan are those who seek medical treatment at government or private hospitals in Peshawar while the rest of them were either traders or those who have family members in Pakistan.
A resident of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Shafi said that in recent months Pakistan had reduced the duration of visa to six months as compared to a one-year multi-entry visa in the past which was also problematic.
“There are thousands of people who want to enter Pakistan as Torkham is the nearest and easiest way to reach Pakistan and you have to stand in a line for three days for your turn,” he said, adding that there was only one counter on the Pakistani side which had resulted in overcrowding on the Afghan side as the clearance was really slow.
Another resident of Jalalabad, Arifa Bibi said that she faced many hurdles as children — one year and above — were not allowed to travel with parents without a visa.
“We are poor people. We barely afford passports for ourselves and don’t have resources to get passports for our children,” she said, adding that there was largescale mismanagement on the Afghanistan side due to which thousands of people had been stranded in Afghanistan.
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“Doctors in Afghanistan told me that my son could not be treated there and recommended taking him to Peshawar but it is an uphill task to cross the Torkham border,” she said.
A local taxi driver, Haji Akhtar, said that thousands of people including taxi drivers, restaurant workers, and truck owners were linked with the Torkham border but in recent days the closure had badly impacted everything and they were barely able to make ends meet.
An official of the FIA said that around 2,500 to 3,000 people cross into Pakistan on a daily basis and e-visa is provided by the Pakistani embassy and consulates.
“There is no interference from our side. Most of the problems are on the Afghan side of the border because there are more people and probably fewer visas,” he said, adding that closing and opening the border is a federal subject.
“These people want a visa-free entry into Pakistan and Afghanistan like the past which is not possible. They argue that such a policy will increase the trade volume between the two countries but it could also increase the spread of Covid-19,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2021.