US troops’ stay here is temporary: minister

Published August 31, 2021
In this press conference, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid addresses a press conference in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV/File
In this press conference, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid addresses a press conference in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad has ruled out a long-term presence in Pakistan of those US troops who are coming from Afghanistan, saying that the foreigners who will stay in the country had been issued transit visas ranging from 21 to 30 days.

Talking to Dawn, he rejected the assertion that Pakistan was set to return to the Musharraf era and chided the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam’s chief for his claim that the government was booking hotels for Americans in the federal capital.

Answering a question, he said as many as 2,192 individuals had entered Pakistan from the Torkham border while 1,627 had come to Islamabad by air. A small number of people had come from the Chaman border, he added.

Mr Ahmad clarified that many people travelled between Pakistan and Afghanistan through the Chaman border on a daily basis. Many Afghans entered Pakistan from this border and returned to their country, he said, adding that it was “a normal activity”.

Says transit visas ranging from 21 to 30 days being issued to people coming from Afghanistan

He said issuance of visas to those coming from Afghanistan was not a money-making exercise, adding that no target had been set to generate funds through this activity. He pointed out that normal visa fee was being charged from these people while visas on arrival were being issued for free of cost.

Asked as to what was the status of individuals crossing into Pakistan from Tor­kham and Chaman borders, he said none of them had been given refugee status.

Earlier speaking at a press conference, the interior minister referred to Thursday’s suicide attack outside Kabul airport and said, “We feared a huge influx of migrants, but it did not happen”.

He said Pakistan was a “responsible country” and it would fulfil its duty of national security and its international expectations, adding that it had played a historic role in the Afghan peace process. He said no other country had rendered sacrifices for peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan. Peace and stability in Afghanistan was linked with peace and stability in Pakistan, he added.

In reply to a question, he said almost all Pakistanis had been evacuated from Afghanistan. Around 30 to 40 Pakistanis were still in Afghanistan, but they were not interested in coming back to the country because they had their families there.

He said arrangements had been made to host 3,000 people in Islamabad. He explained that Pakistan was not bearing the cost of the evacuation process. Organisations sponsoring the evacuation process responsible for its cost, he said, adding that planes parked at the country’s airports were paying parking fees.

Similarly, he said, hotel accommodations being provided to evacuees awaiting transit was also not free of cost.

Mr Ahmad said that the Taliban had assured the Pakistan government that the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) would not be allowed to use the Afghan territory for terrorist activities against Pakistan. He went on to say that Pakistan Army was effectively guarding the borders of the country.

Fearing that India might use terrorist groups against Pakistan, he said Pakistan would fulfil its responsibilities related to national security besides meeting all its international obligations as a responsible nation.

March towards Islamabad

Responding to the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s announcement of organising a march towards Islamabad, he said the opposition parties were welcome to do so, adding that they would be treated in accordance with the law and the constitution.

He, however, expressed the confidence that there was no threat to the Imran Khan government and said the opposition would fail in its attempt to topple the government at a time when the country was facing enormous challenges due to fast changing regional scenario.

He advised the opposition to prepare for the next elections and said corruption cases were also expected to reach their logical conclusion before the next elections in the country. He said the country’s religious parties should play their role in promoting Pakistan’s positive image.

He criticised the opposition for exhibiting irresponsibility and not understanding the political environment while Pakistan was becoming the centre of international politics.

He said the opposition lacked ability to see beyond the wall and was focused on petty issues while Pakistan was gaining international significance due to its geo-strategic location amidst developments in Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2021

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