ISLAMABAD: Amid a volatile situation in Afghanistan, the Pakistan Army has provided ‘refuge and safe passage’ to as many as 46 soldiers and officers of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Border Police who lost their military posts along the border.

A statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Monday explained that a local ANA commander opposite Arundu, Chitral, had requested help for the 46 soldiers — including five officers — as “they were unable to hold their military posts along the Pak-Afghan international border due to evolving secu­rity situation in Afghanis­tan”. The Pakistan Army contacted the Afghan authorities for the relevant information and necessary formalities, the statement added.

“These Afghan soldiers arrived at Arundu sector, Chitral late last night. After contact with Afghan authorities and necessary military procedures, 46 soldiers including five officers have been given refuge [and] safe passage into Pakistan.

“Afghan soldiers have been provided food, shelter and necessary medical care as per established military norms,” the ISPR stated.

ISPR says food, shelter, medical care provided to security men

The military’s media wing explained that the soldiers and officers would be returned to the Afghan government in a “dignified manner after due process”.

Mentioning a similar incident, the ISPR recalled that as many as 35 Afghan soldiers who had asked for refuge on July 1 had also been “given safe passage into Pakistan and handed over to Afghan govt authorities after due procedure”.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had earlier told Dawn that Pakistan had moved the Frontier Constabulary, Levies Force and other militias from the front line positions along the Pak-Afghan border, replacing them with Army troops.

“Now regular army troops are manning the border after replacing the paramilitary forces,” the minister said, adding the decision had been made in the wake of the volatile situation across the border. “The current volatile situation (in Afghanistan) demands that regular military troops be deployed along the border,” he had explained.

Later, the interior minister while speaking at a press conference announced that the Afghan security personnel would be handed over to the Afghan government by Tuesday (today) with dignity.

He said it would be inappropriate to term their arrival to Pakistan as ‘surrender’.

He said fencing along the Afghan border would be completed by Aug 14 while 46-48 per cent of fencing on the border with Iran had been completed.

Also, more than 1,000 Afghan security forces personnel had earlier crossed into Tajikistan as the Afghan Taliban advanced in northern Afghanistan. By then, the Taliban had taken over six key districts in the northern province of Badakshan that borders both Tajikistan and China, following which 1,037 Afghan servicemen fled across the border with Tajikistan’s permission.

Insecurity has been growing in Afghanistan in recent weeks as US-led foreign troops complete their withdrawal and the Taliban launch major offensives, taking districts and border crossings.

Days before the Eidul Azha, the Afghan Taliban and Afghan officials met in the Qatari capital, Doha, for talks. The July 17 meeting ended with promises of more talks as well as greater attention to the protection of civilians and infrastructure.

Sheikh Rashid said thousands of foreigners had been illegally staying in the country for the last many years without valid visas.

He asked all such persons to either leave the country by Aug 14 or apply online for visa extension. He promised that the fine for being late will be waived off.

The minister said the Federal Investigation Agency’s cybercrime wing would be developed on modern lines to improve its performance and efficiency.

He said a new policy of verification, renewal, and correction was being introduced in the National Database and Registration Authority for computerised national identity cards.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2021

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