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Jalalabad stampede –an human tragedy

By Shamim Shahid

Neither Dr. Ashraf Ghani regime in Kabul nor Imran Khan government in Islamabad could be exonerated of its responsibilities in Jalalabad stampede, which caused lives to at least 15 and injuries to several dozen others on Wednesday. So far 17 injured are in hospitals and conditions of several still stated precarious. Wide range concern is being shown over this incident by Afghans and other human rights activists and organs. On the pretext of streamlining Visa issuance system at Pakistan’s Consulate General in Jalalabad, the local administration had blocked all roads and routes and diverted the visa seekers towards Sports Stadium situated around five kilometers away. As a result over three thousand people assembled for getting tokens to reach in front of diplomatic mission. All passports have been dumped in a room and the stampede occurred when the officials called the selectees. As a result of stampede, around 15 persons including 11 women were killed and over 40 injured. The incidents sparked the already tense situation throughout Afghanistan. Immediately Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan through a tweet message condemned the incident. Similarly later Pakistan’s Embassy also issued an identical statement. Besides other Prime Minister Imran Khan, Afghanistan President Dr. Ashraf Ghani. Ex-President Hamid Karzai, Pakistani politicians like ANP’s Asfandyar Wali Khan and QWP’s Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao have also shown concern of the incident. Ex-Senator Afrasiab Khattak has termed it an human tragedy-urging both sides to review its decisions and commitments regarding crossing-point restrictions. Whatever might be reaction of Islamabad but common Afghans are holding no other then Pakistani authorities responsible for Jalalabad stampede, as they considering results of visa restrictions and hurdles. Though Pakistan has on the first day of current October declared a visa policy but it yet to be implemented in practice. The Afghan nationals are compelled to experience the already hardship including payment of huge amount in bribe for getting the visa’s. Due to CIVID-19, which had made halt travelling between the two countries for around seven months has badly affected all those who either intends to visit relatives or for economic purpose Pakistan. Soon after resuming of visa issuance and bilateral travelling, thousands of Afghans are thronging the Pakistani diplomatic missions especially in Kabul and Jalalabad. But due to limitation and restrictions very less people getting visa’s whereas they remaining are compelled to remain in queues for next days. Some of the people are reportedly in queues from seven to eight days. Besides Pakistani diplomatic missions in Afghanistan, the Afghan diplomats in Pakistan are also treating the Pakistani nationals with same behaviors. Like of their Pakistani counterparts in Kabul and Jalalabad, the Afghan diplomats in Peshawar and Islamabad are also demanding bribe. But the ratio of bribes or gratification in Pakistan and Afghanistan are different. In fact, the relations or links between Afghans and Pakistanis are not new but it is lingering on since a long. Even much before landing of the previous British colonial rulers, people from all over this part of South and Central Asia are remain part of one state. Even till empowering of President Dr. Ashraf Ghani in 2014 there was no any border or visa restrictions for majority of people from different Pushtoon tribes. Pakistan’s imposed visa, border and security restrictions has badly affected no other all those millions of Pushtoons from both the neighbouring countries. A day earlier stampede victims are included a young bride, who was amongst those thousands of people intends to get visa and land in Peshawar for her marriage. Similar was the status of several other affected families. Majority of the Afghans who are getting visa are either coming for treatment and health purposes or enrolled in different public and private educational institution. A limited number of them are engaged in economic and business activities. During last four decades, majority of the Afghans are depending in Pakistan. Turmoil in Afghanistan still exists, therefore, Pakistan is the immediate alternate shelter and safety place for them. Both Islamabad and Kabul are turning to deaf ear requests and appeals of millions of Pushtoons to ease the visa and travelling restrictions which may avoid repetition of Jalalabad stampede like incidents in future.

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