Stranded Afghans desperate to return home before Eid

KHYBER: Scores of stranded Afghans at the Torkham border have appealed to Pakistani authorities to allow them to go back to their homes to celebrate Eid with their families.

Pakistan had in early April imposed a ban on Afghan nationals possessing Tazkira, their national identity card, and asked them to acquire valid visas for their future cross-border movement.

The new rules impacted a large number of Afghans working and staying in different parts of Pakistan in connection with their respective occupations and jobs while possessing only their Afghan national cards (Tazkira) and proof of registration cards.

A number of these Afghans had also come to Pakistan for medical treatment and found themselves in trouble after being discharged from hospitals when they were refused a back journey to Afghanistan on Tazkira.

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Appeal to Pakistani authorities for permission to cross the border without visa

Immigration and Federal Investigation Agency officials at Torkham said that cross-border movement for Afghans by Tazkira was allowed only at Chaman. They said that no other border crossing offered such a facility to Afghan nationals under the newly implemented Individual Voluntary Agreement Policy (Ivap).

Sources told this scribe that more than 300 Afghans, mostly men, were stranded at the border while impatiently waiting for ‘a green signal’ from the Pakistani authorities for their return journey without a visa.

They said that all the stranded Afghans were either spending their days and nights in mosques, restaurants, empty spaces near Torkham market, and taxi stands.

A local youth organization with financial assistance from local philanthropists arranges Iftar and Sehri for these stranded Afghans.

Sher Mohammad, a resident of Nangarhar, said that he had plans to celebrate Eidul Fitr with his family and wanted to go home before Eid but was not allowed to cross the border as he possessed only Tazkira.

He said that he also had to abandon his job as a daily wager at a brick kiln due to a kidney ailment and spent most of his hard-earned money on his treatment while keeping some of his savings for the family back home in Afghanistan.

“Now I have spent all my money while waiting at the border for the last one week,” he said and added that he should be allowed to go home as a visa was not required for going back to someone’s country.

Khalid Khan, another stranded Afghan, said that he was desperate to go back home as his family, particularly children, were eagerly waiting for him to celebrate Eid. He said that most of them were mentally and physically exhausted due to the prolonged wait.

The stranded Afghans appealed to the Pakistani authorities to grant them one-time permission on a humanitarian basis to go back home and celebrate Eid with their near and dear ones.

Meanwhile, customs officials recovered arms and ammunition from a truck bringing coal from Afghanistan via Torkham on Sunday.

Officials said that the seized arms included five American and one Turkish prohibited bore pistols and dozens of cartridges. The driver of the vehicle was arrested.