At least 15 people were killed in stampede among thousands of Afghans gathered outside Pakistan’s consulate on Tuesday as jostling broke out between people applying for visas, officials in the eastern city of Jalalabad said.
An estimated 3,000 Afghans had congregated on the open ground outside the consulate, waiting to collect tokens needed to apply for a visa, two provincial officials told Reuters a day after the tragedy.
An Afghan news channel transmitted images of them holding passports aloft to secure a token. Images taken after the stampede showed scores of passports strewn across the ground.
A survivor described to Reuters how tempers frayed and the crowd became unruly in the lead up to the stampede.
“I stood in the queue all night but at some point people got angry and started pushing, many of us fell on the ground,” said Farmanullah, who goes by a single name.
Sohrab Qaderi, a provincial council member in eastern Jalalabad city, where the incident occurred said of the 15 people dead, 11 were women and several senior citizens were wounded.
“The visa applicants jostled to secure their token from the consulate officials [...] the crowd got out of control, leading to a stampede,” said an official in Jalalabad.
Prime Minister Imran Khan in a tweet said he was "deeply saddened by the tragic deaths and casualties" that occurred in the stampede.
"My condolences go to the victims' families & prayers for early recovery of the injured."
Pakistan's Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan said that he was "deeply saddened" at the casualties reported.
"We sympathise with the families of the victims. We are engaged with Afghan authorities for better facilitation of visa applicants. We are committed to continue issuing visas to Afghan nationals under [a] new visa policy while making the process smoother and streamlined at our end," he said.
Tens of thousands of Afghans every year travel to neighbouring Pakistan to secure medical treatment, education and jobs. The two countries share a nearly 2,600-kilometre border.
Pakistan hosts about 3 million Afghan refugees and economic migrants, who have fled violence, religious persecution and poverty in their war-torn country.