QUETTA: Despite weeks-long protests by locals, traders and political parties, the government has started the implementation of new visa regime on the Chaman border crossing with Afghanistan.

In November, the national apex committee, comprising civil and military officials, decided that only those with valid passports and visas would be allowed to cross the border. Earlier, Pakistanis and Afghans would cross the border upon showing either Pakistani or Afghan national identity card.

The decision led to a sit-in, with the protesters claiming it would hurt nearly 40,000 people who depend on daily border crossings for their livelihoods.

Balochistan Inform­ation Minister Jan Achakzai has confirmed the development and said the new rules have been implemented despite “pressure from different quarters, including political parties”.

Minister says more centres set up to issue passports

He said all arrangements were already in place for the new policy, and intending travellers were visiting passport offices in Chaman, Qila Abdullah and other areas for new passports. “The Chaman passport office has issued over 1,000 tokens to applicants who applied for the passport,” Mr Achakzai told Dawn, adding that 200 passports have already been delivered.

The passport facilities have been improved, and more centres opened up for timely delivery, the minister added.

He said a one-time permission has been granted to Afghans who arrived in Chaman on Tazkira to enter their country.

Upon their return to Pakistan, they will have to show a passport and visa, he told Dawn.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund has initiated the distribution of productive livelihood assets to Afghan refugee families under a UNHCR-funded programme.

Currently in its fourth phase, the programme is committed to empowering over 3,000 Afghan refugee families residing in six refugee camps in Nowshera, Quetta, Pishin, and Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2023

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