Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed says people from Afghanistan arrive in Pakistan via the Chaman border on a daily basis and then go back to their country, adding that this was “a normal activity

Zubair Ahmed

ISLAMABAD: Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said Monday that Pakistan has so far not given the status of refugee to a single person from Afghanistan.

“I can confirm as your [the] interior minister that we have not given the status of a refugee to even a single person,” he shared during a news conference, a day before the US and other foreign troops complete their pullout from the war-ravaged country.

The interior minister’s comments came as thousands of Afghans have sought to leave the country since the Taliban took control of the country last month. The US had also requested Pakistan to provide transit facilities after which Islamabad made arrangements at the city’s hotels. 

Rasheed clarified that people from Afghanistan arrive in Pakistan via the Chaman border on a daily basis and then go back to their country, adding that this was “a normal activity.”

Regarding any possible influx of people from Afghanistan, he said that Pakistan has “made arrangements to accommodate 3,000 people in Islamabad only,” adding that “any person from any nationality, who comes to Pakistan from Afghanistan, will be granted a transit visa of 21 days.”

He added that as of now, 1,627 people have entered Pakistan via the air route, while over 2,100 people arrived through the land route at Torkham. 

“We had been expecting a huge refugee influx from Afghanistan, but not a single person came to Pakistan as a refugee.”

He said Pakistan Army is “the world’s greatest army”, adding that they had fenced the border and were keeping a close watch over the movement of people.

Speaking further about developments in Afghanistan, the minister said that Pakistan had evacuated all but 30-40 citizens from the country.

“Those 30-40 people want to remain in Afghanistan. They got married there and now have families. They told us they are happy in Afghanistan,” he added. 

The minister lashed out at India, saying that New Delhi can use militant groups to carry out subversive activities in Pakistan. He said Islamabad hoped Afghanistan would not allow its territory to be used against Pakistan.

Rasheed said Pakistan was the only country in the world that had sacrificed 80,000-plus lives to establish peace in Afghanistan and the region. He censured India, saying that the “country’s news channels are attempting to malign Pakistan through propaganda.”

While speaking about the presence of Daesh in Afghanistan, he said that Pakistan is hopeful that the Taliban would not let their soil be used against its neighbouring country.

“Daesh fighters are present in Nuristan and in the mountains of Kunar,” he admitted. 

During the press conference, the interior minister took shots at the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), saying that the Opposition’s “timing and tuning” were both messed up.

“Opposition should prepare for the next elections,” he advised. “Their narrative will not get acceptance among the masses.”

Rasheed said that the Opposition was not aware of Pakistani politics, adding that they were focused on petty issues while Pakistan’s politics was headed towards international matters.

“Last December, you were coming for our resignations. You will be trapped [if you try again],” he said in response to PDM’s announcement of a march towards Islamabad.

The minister said that the people of Pakistan were now aware of political issues, adding that by the time the next general elections are held, all pending NAB cases will be resolved.

In response to another question, Rasheed urged UK authorities to take Pakistan off the red list. He declined to comment on a question relating to a ban on social media.