PESHAWAR: Deteriorating relations between Islamabad and Kabul are not only affecting bilateral trade between the two neighbouring countries but they are badly affecting millions of people who frequently travel between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The issuance of visa for travellers has now become a serious hurdle as diplomats of both countries have imposed their own terms and conditions in this respect.
During frequent visits to Peshawar-based Afghanistan Consulate, this scribe has witnessed long queues of people from dawn to dusk. They also included women with infant children and the elderly.
Soon after 9/11, when the Taliban regime in Kabul fell, Pakistan and Afghanistan decided to issue visas without any fee or charges in a bid to strengthen relations and improve bilateral trade and other economic activities. However, since the last couple of years, diplomats have become notorious for minting money through the issuance of visas. Aspirants from both countries have confirmed these reports and said that they have to give more bribes in Kabul and Jalalabad than in Islamabad.
The diplomats in Peshawar informed this scribe that every day they are issuing 300 to 400 visas and similar are the statistics from Kabul and Jalalabad. But the number of applicants is much higher, thus angering the visa aspirants from countries.
In order to protest the state of affairs, Pakistani nationals held demonstrations in front of Peshawar Press Club whereas Afghans ransacked the visa offices in Kabul and Jalalabad.
Although Peshawar-based Afghan diplomats are reluctant to respond to media queries regarding growing miseries of visa aspirants, some of them have justified their acts by claiming that they are a reaction to the increasing bribes in Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul and consulate general in Jalalabad.
It has been observed that without bribes, passports are collected in Kabul but the applicants are given seven to 15 days for the issuance of their visas. But in Peshawar, if no bribes are paid, the passports are returned in a humiliating manner.
The officeholders of Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chambers of Commerce’s, different political parties, transporters and tribal elders are lamenting the difficulties in the visa process and the travelling restrictions between the two countries but no one from Islamabad and Kabul has paid any heed to their concerns.