Jalalabad consulate row heats up between Kabul and Islamabad

Special Jalalabad consulate row heats up between Kabul and Islamabad
The move follows what Pakistan termed as “undue intervention” by a senior Afghan official a day earlier. (Pakistan Embassy in Kabul/File)
Updated 01 September 2018

Jalalabad consulate row heats up between Kabul and Islamabad

Jalalabad consulate row heats up between Kabul and Islamabad
  • Pakistan urges Afghanistan to address grievances
  • Afghanistan says measures in place to improve security of the consulate

ISLAMABAD/KABUL: Pakistani officials on Saturday urged Afghanistan to address the “security concerns” which led to the closure of Pakistan’s consulate in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.
The move follows what Pakistan termed as “undue intervention” by a senior Afghan official a day earlier.
An official, at the Pakistan embassy in Kabul, confirmed that talks were in place to resolve the issue with Afghanistan “but concerns have not been addressed yet”. Earlier, the embassy had accused Hayat Ullah Hayat, the governor of Nangarhar province, of “interfering in the functioning of the consulate”, which led to the closure of the diplomatic mission.
“The embassy wishes to inform that the consulate will remain closed until the security arrangements are completed to the satisfaction of the embassy,” a statement released by the Pakistan embassy late on Friday said.
The Afghan government denied Pakistan’s accusations, reasoning that the measures were in place to improve the security of the pla with efforts underway to settle any misunderstanding. Zardasht Shams, the Afghanistan charged’ affairs in Islamabad, insisted that Hayat was working in the interest of the people by helping those seeking Pakistani visas. “People face lots of difficulties to get visas and they wait for weeks and they conveyed their complaints to the governor. The provincial authorities took some measures to manage the crowd …in consultation with the Pakistani consulate,” Shams told Arab News on Saturday.
“Security of the Pakistani consulate is the responsibility of our government and the provincial government has given a complete assurance to the Pakistani diplomatic mission of that,” he said.
Talking to reporters in Nangarhar on Saturday, Hayat denied interfering in the affairs of the consulate, alleging that Afghans routinely paid bribes to get visas. On Thursday, according to Afghan officials, he reportedly visited the Pakistan consulate — accompanied by the police and provincial officials — to help visa applicants.
The issue came to light after Afghan officials procured a building, near the Pakistani consulate, for visa applicants from Afghanistan. Pakistan views the move as a security threat to the diplomatic mission and its staff members, a Pakistani official from Kabul told Arab News by phone. He said the building belongs to Nangarhar’s deputy governor.
“If a large number of visa seekers were allowed to stay at a building next to our consulate, it would compromise the security of our diplomatic mission,” he said. He alleged that the Nangarhar governor “forcibly removed” the consulate’s security barrier.
Locals in Jalalabad say that thousands of people, including women and the elderly, gather outside the consulate on a daily basis to procure a visa to visit Pakistan for medical help, education, business or to meet relatives.
Pakistan hosts nearly two million Afghan refugees, according to statistics released by the UN refugee agency.
Officials at the Pakistan embassy said that they issue 2,500 to 3,000 visas every day, while the Jalalabad consulate gives permits to 1,500 to 2,000.
Pakistan’s diplomatic missions in Afghanistan have been struggling to deal with the influx of visa seekers after Pakistan introduced stricter regulations in 2016 to limit cross-border movement. 
As part of its “border management” plans, Pakistan’s army is also involved in the fencing of the border with Afghanistan. The project is likely to be completed by the end 2019 at the cost of Rs55 billion, according to military officials. Pakistan claims these efforts are aimed at preventing terrorists from accessing the border.