High-level delegation of Afghan political leadership arrived in Islamabad


ISLAMABAD: As the Taliban forces took control of the Afghanistan capital after taking all the major cities, including Jalalabad and Mazar-e-Sharif, a high-level delegation of Afghan political leadership, including Speaker Wolesi Jirga Mir Rehman Rehmani, arrived in Islamabad on Sunday.

"Just received a high-level Afghan political leadership delegation including Speaker Wolesi Jirga Mir Rehman Rehmani, Salahud din Rabbani, Mohammad Yunus Qanooni, Ustad Mohammad Karim Khalili, Ahmad Zia Massoud, Ahmad Wali Massoud, Abdul Latif Pedram, and Khalid Noor," Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq wrote on his Twitter handle.

He said that matters of mutual interest will be discussed during the Afghan political leadership’s visit.

It is being learned that Prime Minister Imran Khan has decided to convene a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) over abruptly changing situation in Afghanistan. The sources said the NSC meeting is expected to be held today (Monday), which will be attended by federal ministers and military leadership.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office spokes man said that Pakistan was closely following the unfolding situation in Afghanistan and was extending assistance to facilitate visa or arrival of diplomatic community, media and others.

Spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said in a statement that Pakistan embassy in Kabul was extending necessary assistance to Pakistanis, Afghan nationals and diplomatic and international community for consular work and coordination of PIA flights.

Moreover, a special inter-ministerial cell has been established in the Ministry of Interior to facilitate visa/arrival matters for diplomatic personnel, UN agencies, international organisations, media and others.

However, the spokesman said Pakistan would continue to support the efforts for political settlement.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Hussain Qureshi said that Pakistan and the international community were on same page and wanted solution of Afghan conflict through a negotiated political settlement.

During a press conference in Multan, the minister stated that Afghan leadership should sit together and resolve the conflict in a peaceful manner.

“Pakistan always stated that there was no military solution to Afghan problem,” Qureshi said, and added that it was also a test of Afghan leadership how they resolve the issue. He, however, added that Afghan people wanted peace, stability and protection of their rights.

He said there is no favourite of Pakistan in Afghanistan, however, the country will continue to perform its positive role for peace.

Responding to a query, the minister remarked that Pakistan embassy in Afghanistan would continue to function. In case, anyone was found stranded, the embassy would provide facilitation, Qureshi said.

Meanwhile, two PIA aircraft that had been stuck at Kabul airport with a total of 499 passengers on board, were finally permitted to fly and arrived in Islamabad, Geo News reported. One was a Boeing 777 which carried 329 passengers, while the other was an Airbus 320 with 170 passengers. According to PIA, three flights will be operated between Islamabad and Kabul today (Monday) as well, as there is a large volume of Pakistanis and other nationals looking to leave Kabul.

Among the passengers are diplomats from Pakistan and their families, as well as other countries. The sources said that there were many people without air tickets who wished to get on board the PIA flights. Eight such people were allowed passage, whereas the others were turned away.

Earlier, Ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan Mansoor Ahmed Khan had tweeted that the embassy is "engaged with PIA to accommodate Pakistanis on regular and additional flights".

"We are also assisting those who have issue of affordability," he said.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), in a statement, said special permission has been accorded for the return of Pakistanis from Afghanistan without the mandatory negative PCR test for coronavirus.

"As informed by our mission in Kabul, the current situation in Afghanistan has necessitated imminent repatriation of Pakistani nationals residing in Afghanistan," read the CAA statement.

It said that "given the paucity of time", it was decided that Pakistani travellers be allowed to arrive without the possession of mandatory negative PCR test results which is usually conducted within the 72 hours prior to commencement of travel to Pakistan.

The rule will remain in effect for all direct flights between Kabul and Islamabad arriving up to August 18, 2021, 23:59 hours.

"This approval, however, is subject to strict compliance with other provisions of standard operating procedures (SOPs) in-vogue relating to inbound travel to Pakistan, including rapid antigen testing, PCR testing and any other stipulations as mandated by the relevant health authorities upon arrival in Pakistan," the notice said.

This means that upon arrival, passengers will be subject to all tests made mandatory by health authorities, as well as strict compliance of safety measures.

The PIA will be running special flights between Kabul and Islamabad from today to August 18, to facilitate Pakistanis stranded in Afghanistan. PIA will operate Boeing 777 flights, the sources said, adding that the airline has sought permission in this regard from the Afghan civil aviation authority.

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