KHYBER: With a ban on cross-border pedestrian movement at Torkham border still in place, Pakistan granted restricted permission to seriously ill Afghan nationals to come the country for medical treatment, said border and immigration officials at Torkham on Saturday.

They said that the permission was granted in the light of repeated requests from high-ranking Afghan officials both in Kabul and Afghan embassy in Islamabad.

They said that a team of qualified doctors had been deputed at the Pak-Afghan Dosti Hospital at Torkham border to check the medical record and related travel documents of Afghan patients who were aspiring to come to Pakistan for treatment.

Officials said that permission to travel inside Pakistan was only granted when the team of doctors recommended treatment of the patients in any of Pakistani hospitals.

They, however, insisted that a strict ban on the cross-border movement of ordinary pedestrians was still in place in the light of the National Command and Operation Centre’s decision of May 8 through which borders with Afghanistan and Iran were closed to contain the spread of coronavirus from the neighbouring countries to Pakistan.

Pakistan in the meantime had also arranged for return of the stranded Afghans to their country and arrival of Pakistanis from Afghanistan.

The immigration officials said that the number of returning Afghans had considerably declined since the first week of the ban.

They said that every Pakistani national returning from Afghanistan was required to undergo coronavirus test at the border and those found symptomatic were sent to a local hospital for two weeks of mandatory quarantine.

The federal government had announced the closure of borders with Afghanistan and Iran for pedestrian movement on May 8 to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2021

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