Afghan evacuations: All American soldiers will leave Pakistan today, says Fawad

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Hussain Chaudhry has said that all US troops that have come to Pakistan as part of the evacuation efforts will leave the country sometime today (Tuesday), rejecting speculation that Islamabad has granted any kind of visas to the American army personnel leaving Afghanistan.

“155 troop members of the American forces have come to Pakistan from Afghanistan. Only 42 of them remain and the rest have already left,” said Fawad, addressing a press conference in Islamabad after the cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“After today, no American forces personnel will be present here [in Pakistan],” he emphasised.

The minister’s remarks come as Pakistan continues to welcome foreign nationals, including Afghans, as the US completes its troop withdrawal. With the situation in Kabul highly volatile, many countries have stepped up evacuation efforts with Pakistan becoming the natural transit country. Islamabad has already announced that it would grant a transit visa of 21 days as foreign nationals prepare to leave for their destination country.

On Monday, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said no Afghan who has arrived in Pakistan as part of evacuation efforts has been given “refugee status” yet, stressing that Islamabad has not taken incoming citizens of other countries as refugees.

The United States has pulled all its troops out of Afghanistan, ending its longest war to cries of shame at home and celebratory gunfire from its victorious Taliban enemies in Kabul.

The last of the American troops overseeing a desperate evacuation effort flew out of Kabul airport on Monday night, completing a withdrawal that has raised deep questions about the United States’ status as a superpower.

Meanwhile, giving details about the total number of officials belonging to the NATO and other related institutions, Fawad said the “total number that arrived in Pakistan was 10,302, and 9,032 of them have already left for their respective countries”.

“Of the remaining 1,229 people present, 545 are Afghans, and the rest belong to other nationalities.”

“All of these will leave Pakistan in two days,” the minister said, adding that “they are in transit and have not gone through immigration.”

Talking about Pakistan’s evacuation efforts from Afghanistan, he said that from the first day, Pakistan’s commitment is that it will help everyone regardless of nationality. “Our borders and air corridors are open for all evacuation-related efforts.”

Fawad informed reporters that so far 2,421 people have come via the Torkham border. Of them, 821 were Afghans while 1,570 were Pakistanis.

The minister made it clear that all Pakistanis have returned from Afghanistan and only a few families remain who do not want to return due to personal reasons.

He said two types of documentations are required for Afghans visiting Pakistan. “Those who have a proper visa can come to Pakistan, but Afghan nationals who only have their country’s identification can only come to Chaman for business-related activities. They are not issued a visa. They have a special document (Afghan Tazkira) that allows their stay in Chaman only.”

Evacuation efforts

The minister was also all praise for the departments involved in evacuation efforts. “The whole world is praising Pakistan for its efforts, and we will continue to help extend our cooperation.”

UK red list

Talking about Pakistan’s efforts to exit the the UK’s travel red list, Fawad said Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan will discuss Pakistan’s coronavirus testing mechanism with Britain’s chief medical scientist.

The minister said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had spoken to his British counterpart Boris Johnson, who believed that discussions should be held “over the testing mechanism in Pakistan”.

“We are putting in all our efforts to have Pakistan moved out of UK’s red list, as it affects numerous families,” the information minister said.

The UK government had decided to retain Pakistan on its travel red list after the latest review that took place last week.

The Red List allows only those to enter the UK if they are British or Irish nationals, or have residence rights in the UK. Before their travel to England, the nationals must take a Covid-19 test, book a quarantine hotel package, including 2 Covid-19 tests as well as complete a passenger locator form.

Fawad slams PDM

Talking about Pakistan’s domestic politics, the information slammed the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), saying the opposition “will strike a deal with the devil if they have to.”

The information minister reiterated that the government was still ready to talk about electoral reforms with the opposition.” We want to speak about electoral reforms with the opposition, but they aren’t interested […] Opposition just wants to criticise [the government],” Fawad said.

Talking about the necessity of electoral reforms, he said that it is a fundamental debate. “A country cannot have a democracy unless the elections are free and fair.”