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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has announced closure of its consulate in Jalalabad, citing ‘undue interference’ by the governor of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province in its working and other security concerns.

While notifying the decision to the Afghan foreign ministry, the Pakistan embassy in Kabul stated: “The embassy wishes to inform that the consulate general will remain closed until the security arrangements are complete to the satisfaction of the embassy.”

Calling the intervention of Governor Hayatullah Hayat a complete violation of the Vienna Convention of the Consular Relations 1963, the Kabul embassy asked the Afghan authorities to honour the diplomatic privileges enjoyed by the consulate under international treaties. “The Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul deeply regrets undue intervention of Governor Hayatullah Hayat in the functioning of the Consulate General of the Islamic Rep ublic of Pakistan in Jalalabad, which is a complete violation of the Vienna Convention of the Consular Relations 1963,” the statement read.

Article 31 of the Vienna Convention pertaining to inviolability of the consular premises states: “The authorities of the receiving State shall not enter that part of the consular premises which is used exclusively for the purpose of the work of the consular post except with the consent of the head of the consular post or of his designee or of the head of the diplomatic mission of the sending State.

“The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the consular premises against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the consular post or impairment of its dignity.”

Responding to questions in Kabul, Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Sebghatullah Ahmadi told journalists that the problem would be solved soon. He expressed the hope that the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad would soon resume its operations.

“We are in contact with Pakistan embassy in Kabul and Pakistan general consulate in Jalalabad and this problem will be solved in the near future,” the spokesman said. Pakistan’s Foreign Office, however, did not comment on the statement.

According to Afghan media, Governor Hayat had tried to coerce Pakistani staff to change the visa issuance system that he alleged was causing inconvenience to public. This provoked the embassy, which had already been upset over the demolition of a security wall by the Afghan authorities, to suspend the operations.

According to VoA, Governor Hayat while defending his action said: “We were not happy with activities of the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad. According to our information, the consulate was charging 5,000 ($40) to 20,000 ($160) Pakis­tani rupees from Afghans for processing their visas.”

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2018