ISLAMABAD: In changing scenario, hotels are being readied in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar for people leaving Afghanistan.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid says the Pakistan government has decided to offer 21 days transit visas to the diplomats, officials of the world organisations and non-government organisations and journalists stuck in Afghanistan. Such people have initially been allowed to land at two airports of Islamabad.
Speaking at a news conference here on Friday, Mr Rashid said Pakistan had played its historical role in evacuation of foreigners from Kabul and the world was appreciating it. He said the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and immigration directorate had completed preparations to receive the foreigners.
Rebuffing the rumours that various spaces were being vacated, he said only hotels were being vacated so that guests coming from Afghanistan could stay there at their own expense.
The interior minister said the federal government had issued transit visas to 1,500 people while about 1,480 people were given access to Pakistan’s territories through the Torkham border crossing.
“Both Torkham and Chaman border crossings are open for those intending to travel to Pakistan, if they have valid documents,” he said and added that the remaining 2,686km border was sealed.
Mr Rashid said the Afghan government had assured Pakistan that its land would not be used against Pakistan and same assurance was reciprocated to Afghanistan.
Accommodation in Islamabad
Islamabad’s administration took control of all hotels in the capital on Thursday for several weeks to arrange accommodation for foreigners being evacuated from Afghanistan, sources said.
Security measures in and around the hotels have been beefed up, with police and paramilitary personnel put on high alert, they said.
Senior officials of the administration and police told Dawn that the steps were taken after directives in this regard were issued by the government.
Thousands of foreigners, including diplomats and other staff of foreign missions and journalists, are expected to arrive in the capital in the next couple of weeks, the sources said.
About 1,500 foreigners are scheduled to arrive from the neighbouring country on Friday aboard separate flights, they said, adding that over 1,000 foreigners are expected to land in Islamabad on each day of the next couple of weeks.
The officials said that due to multiple bombings at the Kabul airport on Thursday, the evacuation of foreigners from Afghanistan would speed up, adding that these transit passengers would move to their own countries after a brief stay in the federal capital.
The capital’s administration asked the managements of all the hotels to close reservations for 21 days starting on Friday, leaving all the vacant rooms in them at the disposal of the administration.
So far the people staying in the hotels have not been asked to leave, they said, adding that such requests could be made if the need arises.
A notification issued by the office of District Magistrate said that in view of the current situation across the border, thousands of people were being evacuated from Afghanistan and passengers using transit flights for the purpose were staying in Islamabad.
Hotels in Peshawar
With around 10,000 foreigners likely to begin landing at the Bacha Khan International Airport after evacuation from Afghanistan this week, the district administration took control of 10 hotels in the provincial capital on Friday to accommodate them on their way to the respective countries.
The administration claims that it is ready to receive transit passengers on an hour’s notice.
“We [administration] have made elaborate arrangements to receive foreigners in the provincial capital from Afghanistan,” an official told Dawn on condition of anonymity.
He said currently, the air traffic system at Kabul airport was down and therefore, the administration of Peshawar had no idea about the number of the people flying in from there.
“We will know only once planes enter Pakistani airspace but we are anticipating the arrival of 10,000 foreigners, including Afghans,” he said.
The official said the visitors would be treated as transit passengers.
“Afghans will be accommodated at the Dauranpur quarantine centre on the outskirts of Peshawar city and Haji camps in Peshawar, while the other foreigners, including diplomats, will be accommodated at hotels according to their status,” he said.
The official said the district administration had held meetings with hoteliers, who had placed their buildings on the disposal of the district administration.
Accommodation in Lahore
The Punjab government will ‘temporarily’ house Afghan refugees who are arriving in Pakistan in the wake of the recent crisis in Afghanistan after the Taliban took over the neighbouring country.
“Police and the city district administration are making arrangements on the orders of the Home Department for the stay of Afghans in hotels and sub-campus of some universities in Lahore,” said Additional Commissioner Amanullah Qudwai.
Law enforcement agencies and city district administration officials had issued directions to vacate the University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Government College University (GCU) and University of Health Sciences (UHS) Kala Shah Kaku sub-campuses for housing the Afghan refugees.
Following the directions, the administrations of these varsities had ordered their hundreds of students and the employees to vacate the residences, hostels and offices established on their Kala Shah Kaku sub-campuses.
Teachers and students of these universities told Dawn that civil and military officials, including Additional Commissioner Mr Qudwai, had visited the sub-campuses late on Thursday night and ordered them to vacate the hostels and other residential buildings.
They said hundreds of policemen had been deputed outside the sub-campuses. They added that half of the students were attending on-campus classes because of the Covid SOPs.
Arrangements in Karachi
The Karachi administration has begun making accommodation arrangements for “Afghan nationals and foreigners” being evacuated from Afghanistan in the wake of the security situation following the Taliban takeover of the country.
The arrangements for evacuees will be made in the vicinity of the Jinnah International Airport, according to the commissioner’s office.
In a notification dated Aug 26, the office of the Karachi commissioner said at least 2,000 people were expected to arrive in Karachi in the next three to four days, adding that they would stay in the provincial capital “for the next few days”.
“The Deputy Commissioner Malir is requested to make adequate arrangements on emergency basis in the vicinity of the Jinnah International Airport, Karachi for the boarding, lodging, transport, and security of Afghan nationals and foreigners arriving at Karachi airport for transit purposes in coordination with Provincial Disaster Management Authority and law enforcing agencies,” the notification read.
This decision was taken at a meeting on Aug 26 at 5 Corps headquarters with “chief of staff” in the chair, according to the commissioner’s office.
Two hotels and marquees surrounding the Karachi airport were identified by the administration for hosting people coming from Afghanistan.
“The passengers availing the facility at identified hotels shall themselves bear all the expenses of their stay at the hotels,” the administration said.
The commissioner’s office also asked the Federal Investigation Agency, provincial health department and power utility K-Electric to make necessary arrangements in coordination with Malir deputy commissioner to facilitate the process.
A notification issued by the office of district magistrate said that in view of the current situation across the border, thousands of people were being evacuated from Afghanistan and passengers using transit flights for the purpose were staying in Islamabad.