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Pakistan Reduces Staff at Three Consulates in Afghanistan

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo of the Pakistan side of the Chaman border crossing. Issam Ahmed—AFP

Security forces clash with Afghan civilians at Chaman border

Pakistan on Thursday announced it was reducing the number of staff at three consulates in Afghanistan in light of the deteriorating security situation in the neighboring state, adding some operations had also been “temporarily” halted.

Consulates in Mazar-i-Sharif, Kandahar and Herat—the latter who now under Taliban control—would continue to process online visa applications, as they had been due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said authorities. In a posting on Twitter, Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmed Khan stressed that there was no plan to suspend operations of Pakistan’s consulates in Afghanistan.

“In view of the security situation, the staff strength has been minimized,” he said. “Due to COVID-19 situation, in person visas are not being processed and only on-line visas are being issued,” he added.

Speaking to Dawn News, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi clarified that most of the staff had been directed to relocate to Kabul for their own safety.

Separately, the Reuters news agency reported that security personnel in Pakistan had clashed with hundreds of Afghans stranded in Pakistan following the Taliban’s decision to close the border unless Islamabad restores visa-free travel for Afghans. Reportedly, the unrest occurred after an elderly Afghan man died of a heart attack while waiting to cross over, resulting in protests demanding the border be opened.

According to Reuters, some of the protesters hurled rocks at the security personnel, who responded by firing tear gas and baton-charging the demonstrators. No injuries have been reported.

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