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Editorial: On-again, off-again relationship

Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan are strained more often than now. There are always multiple excuses and problems to spoil the ties. Ranging from cross-point fires and trade hurdles to visa issuance difficulties, there is a myriad of issues between the two neighbors. The problem of visa issuance at the Pakistan embassy of Kabul and its consulate in Jalalabad city of Nangarhar has long been tormenting Afghans. In a recent report, Afghans who seek Pakistani visas in Nangarhar say they either have to spend several nights to obtain their visas or give bribes in order to get them without any delay. This situation in Jalalabad is tormenting the visa applicants at a time when the same happens in the Pakistani embassy in Kabul amid this cold weather. There are numerous middlemen, having links on the inside, active outside the embassy who is fleecing poor people. The prices of getting a visa fluctuate between 8,000 to 2,400 Afs, facilitating a lucrative business for the middlemen and the embassy staffers involved. This is while thousands apply and only hundreds of them receive visas, as well as those who offer kickbacks get their work done. Despite this corruption-tainted process, visa seekers cannot avoid traveling to Pakistan and have no other choice because they have serious needs. They have multiple purposes to get visas such as having to visit relatives or go for treatment there. It’s true that giving visas to thousands of applicants in a day indeed causes troubles and inconvenience but it has a solution if somebody wills to find it. The consular staff and services can be expanded as a start-up. Meanwhile, the Afghan government and the Pakistani mission take no step to do away with corruption taking place outside the consulates and it’s the ordinary people who are bearing the brunt. This on-again, off-again relation, which is doing nobody any good, between the countries should be brought to an end. We have witnessed several times that every action by either country has so far entailed reaction from the other. Last time, as the Afghan consulate was closed in Peshawar, Pakistan shut down its embassy for more than three months for whatever reasons. A week back, Afghan traders complained of new restrictions imposed by the Pakistani side regarding the installation of tracking and monitoring devices on all vehicles carrying Afghan transit trade goods from February 1. In response, a new condition was set this week by the Afghan government which threw a curveball at Pakistani transporters. Through this new condition, the Afghan government has barred one thousand goods-laden trucks – stranded on the Pakistan side of the Durand Line at Torkham – without route permits from entering Afghanistan. This new condition might be the Afghan government’s way of getting back at Pakistan for creating difficulties for Afghan visa seekers. These Pakistani transporters would now have to go to Afghan consulates to get their permits and face the same challenges as Afghans. Such decisions affect trade between the neighbors and cause financial losses to transporters. Therefore, it’s advisable for Pakistan to comprehend that it shall reap what it sows and that only observing the principles of good neighborliness will solve the problems.

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