–Pakistan expresses grief over loss of lives in stampede
JALALABAD: At least 15 people were killed in a stampede among thousands of Afghans gathered outside Pakistan’s consulate on Tuesday as jostling broke out between people applying for visas, officials in the eastern city of Jalalabad said.
An estimated 3,000 Afghans had congregated on the open ground outside the consulate, waiting to collect tokens needed to apply for a visa, two provincial officials told Reuters a day after the tragedy.
The people had gathered to secure a permit after Pakistan introduced a new visa policy for Afghanistan to facilitate business and people-to-people contacts between the two countries. According to officials, the travel document, approved by the cabinet, will make it easy for Afghan citizens to acquire multiple entry visit visas, including those for long-term business, as well as investment and student visas.
Sohrab Qaderi, a provincial council member in eastern Jalalabad city, where the incident occurred said of the 15 people dead, 11 were women and several senior citizens were wounded.
“The visa applicants jostled to secure their token from the consulate officials […] the crowd got out of control, leading to a stampede,” said an official in Jalalabad said.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed deep grief over tragic deaths and casualties in a stampede in Jalalabad of Afghans wanting to get Pakistani visas.
In a tweet on Wednesday, the Prime Minister condoled the victim families and prayed for early recovery of the injured.
Separately, the Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul has expressed its deep grief over reports of loss of Afghan lives and injuries to people in a stampede five kilometre away from Pakistan Consulate in Jalalabad.
“We sympathise with the families of those who have lost their lives and those who have been injured in this unfortunate incident,” the statement read.
However, the communiqué further stressed that, in view of the of brotherly relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the embassy in Kabul and consulates in Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif continue to issue multiple entry visas to the Afghan applicants for their visits to Pakistan for family, business, medical treatment, education and other purposes.
“Pakistan has recently announced its new visa policy for enhanced facilitation to Afghan nationals for long term multiple entry visas which is being implemented by the Embassy and Consulates in Afghanistan,” the press release stated.
The embassy further stated that it remains committed to ensuring smooth and effective management of visa applicants at their end.
“We seek the understanding and cooperation of Afghan people and authorities for better and secure management of the Afghan visa applicants,” the press release concluded.
Tens of thousands of Afghans every year travel to neighbouring Pakistan to secure medical treatment, education and jobs. The two countries share a nearly 2,600-kilometre border.
Pakistan hosts about 3 million Afghan refugees and economic migrants, who have fled violence, religious persecution and poverty in their war-torn country.