ISLAMABAD - Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal yesterday asked his government to airlift Afghan nationals stranded in Pakistan as there was no hope for the early reopening of border crossing points.

Afghan news agency Pajhwok Afghan News reported the envoy making the request for airlift, after he met with Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz and asked him to at least partially reopen the crossing points.

The envoy was reported as saying that he was told by the Pakistani official that the crossing points were already open for people who wanted to return from Pakistan to Afghanistan.

Pakistan had closed the border crossing points with Afghanistan on February 16 after 88 people were killed in a suicide bombing at the shrine of sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan town of Sindh.

The border crossings were sealed for all kinds of traffic due to security concerns and a high-level huddle of Pakistan’s civil and military leaders on Friday decided to keep the border closed until adjoining regions are completely purged of remnants of terrorists.

Afghan officials say the closure of border, especially at Trokham, has stranded hundreds of Afghan citizens who entered Pakistan last month for business or medical purposes. Zakhilwal put the number of stranded Afghans at more than 25,000.

Over the past several days the top Afghan envoy has been meeting with military and civilian high ups in Pakistan to help the stranded Afghans and the goods laden trucks queued up on both sides of the border to move through, but could not convince them to reopen the border.

Zakhilwal earlier in the day on Saturday said he had raised the “unjustified” border closure with multiple Pakistani leaders and was given assurances of partial opening of the border to facilitate his countrymen but the promises were not fulfilled.

In a social media post the envoy said, “Continuous unreasonable closure of legal Pak-Afghan trade and transit routes cannot have any other explanation except to be aimed at hurting the common Afghan people.”

The envoy said he was not provided with a convincing justification by people at helms of affairs in Islamabad for the continued closure of border crossings.

The argument presented, to stop terrorists from crossing into Pakistan, did not carry weight as these points such as Torkham and Spin Boldak were manned by heavy contingent of military and paramilitary forces and people were allowed after checking; so, the closure was illogical, he added.

Zakhilwal said Pakistani authorities had repeatedly assured him of partial opening of the crossing points “but this hasn’t happened yet.”

Because of this, the envoy said he, in second meeting in last three days with Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, has pressed the adviser to reopen the border.

He said he had told Aziz that he would ask his government to arrange chartered flights for the stranded Afghans if the border was not reopened, at least partially, in two days’ time.

Zakhilwal yesterday also met Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan at his Bani Gala residence to seek his support towards this end.

PTI chief agreed to his point and later in a social media message he stressed the need for allowing those with valid travel documents to cross the border.

He further stressed the need of resolving the issues through negotiations and to combat the menace of militancy and terrorism jointly.

“Closure of Pak-Afghan border is building into a humanitarian crisis. The two governments need to cooperate effectively on cross-border terrorism,” Imran tweeted after meeting the Afghan envoy.

“Those with valid travel documents and perishable goods should be allowed to cross the border to mitigate suffering of ordinary people on both sides,” the PTI chief added.

In a statement issued by PTI’s central media wing after the meeting, Imran Khan also urged both Pakistan and Afghanistan to resume dialogue to improve their worsening bilateral ties.

“Both governments are required to engage in serious dialogue to resolve pending issues,” he said as he also called for measures to minimise the loss of traders due to the border closure.

In a statement posted on his official Facebook account, the Afghan envoy said the closure of the crossing points hurts bilateral trade between the two countries.

He claimed Pakistan was losing more as a result of the closures. “Pakistan’s declining export share in Afghanistan is indicative of that.”

He also said the closure is in direct contradiction to the theme, objectives and messages of the recently held Economic Cooperation Organisation summit in Islamabad.

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“Those with valid travel documents and perishable goods should be allowed to cross the border to mitigate suffering of ordinary people on both sides,” the PTI chief added.

In a statement issued by PTI’s central media wing after the meeting, Imran Khan also urged both Pakistan and Afghanistan to resume dialogue to improve their worsening bilateral ties.

“Both governments are required to engage in serious dialogue to resolve pending issues,” he said as he also called for measures to minimise the loss of traders due to the border closure.

In a statement posted on his official Facebook account, the Afghan envoy said the closure of the crossing points hurts bilateral trade between the two countries.

He claimed Pakistan was losing more as a result of the closures. “Pakistan’s declining export share in Afghanistan is indicative of that.”

He also said the closure is in direct contradiction to the theme, objectives and messages of the recently held Economic Cooperation Organisation summit in Islamabad.