Differences between Pakistan, Afghanistan further deepen, Pak Consulate in Kabul closed

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KABUL: Differences between Pakistan and Afghanistan have further deepened as Pakistan’s Embassy in Kabul said on Sunday that it was indefinitely closing its consular office in the Afghan capital due to security reasons, amid mounting tensions between the neighboring countries.
The closure comes as a huge blow to many Afghans, hundreds of whom apply daily for permits to travel to Pakistan where they seek medical treatment, goods and university education.
Before its closure, the consulate section used to issue visas for over 1,500 people, including elderly and sick people, on a daily basis. The recipients were either not confident about the standard of medical services in Afghanistan or found them too costly when compared to Pakistan.
“This affects all sorts of people, mostly the patients. It is really tough for people to go to consulates in other areas and get the visas on time,” Mohammad Ezat, a Kabul resident who lives near the embassy, said.
The consular office in Kabul was closed over security reasons after several staff members were harassed by unknown people in Kabul, Pakistan’s Embassy announced late on Sunday.
The visa section’s closure comes amid fresh tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan, two countries with uneasy historical ties over their border.
Last week, both exchanged fire along the disputed border region, leaving some people dead and wounded on both sides.
The shutdown also follows two months after Pakistan announced restricting visas for Afghans, saying it will issue them to only the sick, elderly people and traders, demanding Kabul to end what it said was a long practice of extortion of applicants outside the embassy.
On Sunday, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Afghan charge d’affaires to convey concerns about the safety of its diplomats in Kabul. The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement showed its “deepest objection and concern over the summoning of the Ambassador to Islamabad, by Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence and the misconduct of the entity’s personnel and deems this action in clear contradiction with diplomatic norms and principles.”
Pakistani consular services remain open in Herat, Jalalabad and Mazar-i-Sharif, according to the embassy spokesman, who recommended that applicants travel to Jalalabad if they needed a visa urgently.

Pakistan’s stand

Pakistan Fore­ign Office on Tuesday rej­ected Kabul’s allegation of mistreatment of its ambassador to Pakistan and stre­ssed adherence to diplomatic norms.

“The Government of Pak­istan extends due respect and courtesies and expects that the foreign envoys conform to the established diplomatic norms and principles,” the FO stated while rejecting the Afghan foreign ministry’s assertion of “mistreatment” of its envoy.

The Afghan foreign ministry had earlier alleged that its Ambassador in Islamabad Atif Mashal was summoned by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and conduct of “the entity’s personnel” was in “contradiction with diplomatic norms and principles”. The Afghan foreign ministry had not mentioned when the incident took place.

War of words

The war of words between Islamabad and Kabul over the alleged harassment of diplomats began on Sunday when Pakistan government said that officers and staff of Pakistan embassy in Kabul were “obstructed on the road and the embassy vehicles were also hit by motorcycles while going towards the embassy”. The consular section of Pakistan embassy later suspended its services.

Afghan Charge d Affaires was summoned to the FO for conveying “serious concerns” over the safety and security of the personnel of Pakistan’s diplomatic missions in Afghanistan.

The latest FO statement pointed towards continuing harassment of Pakistani diplomats and embassy staff as it said the incidents had been happening for the past few days.