Pakistan has temporarily closed a consulate in neighboring Afghanistan, citing a lack of security and accusing authorities of interfering in the work of the diplomatic facility.
The consulate is located in Jalalabad, capital of the eastern Nangarhar province next to the border with Pakistan.
Letter to ministry
Islamabad’s embassy in Kabul in a letter to the Afghan Foreign Affairs Ministry on Friday blamed “undue intervention” of the provincial governor in the functioning of the consulate for prompting it to shut down the diplomatic facility.
The letter urged the ministry to see that Governor Hayatullah Hayat “refrain” from undertaking actions “in complete violation” of the international treaties on diplomatic relations. It also requested the restoration of security arrangements Afghan authorities allegedly withdrew earlier this week.
“The embassy wishes to inform that the Consulate General will remain closed until the security arrangements are complete to the satisfaction of the embassy,” said the letter.
Accusation of visa fees
Hayat on Saturday rejected the allegations he was interfering in the internal matters of the Pakistani consulate and accused the foreign mission of insulting Afghans and illegally charging money for processing their visas.
“We were not happy with activities of the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad. According to our information, the consulate was charging 5,000 ($40) to 20,000 ($160) Pakistani rupees from Afghans for processing their visas,” he told a news conference in the provincial capital.
“We won’t interfere in the internal matters of the consulate. But we also won’t allow anyone to dishonor Afghans outside the consulate and encourage bribes,” Hayat said.
Pakistani officials were not available immediately to respond to Hayat’s allegations.
Pakistan and Afghanistan issue free of charge visas to each other’s citizens.
Hundreds of Afghans line up every day outside the Jalalabad consulate to get Pakistani visas, and a large number of them had gathered Saturday, officially a working day in Afghanistan, as they were unaware of the abrupt closure of the facility.
Local Afghan media quoted a provincial government spokesman as confirming that Hayat personally visited the Pakistani consulate Thursday to “facilitate” Afghan visa applicants and called on the diplomatic staff to put in order their visa issuance process.
The governor’s visit apparently provoked Pakistan to close the Jalalabad consulate.
The controversy is another reflection of Pakistan’s strained ties with Afghanistan. The two uneasy neighbors share a nearly 2,600-kilometer, largely porous border and each accuses the other of supporting militant attacks against their them.