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Afghanistan's national girls football team arrive with their family members at the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) in Lahore on September 15, 2021 Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: Pakistan government urgently granted temporary visas to 32 Afghan female footballers and their families on a humanitarian basis.

The female football team of Afghanistan arrived in Pakistan along with their families - a group of 115 people. They crossed the Torkham border to reach Pakistan on Tuesday night after the government issued emergency humanitarian visas. They were received by a representative of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF).

“We welcome Afghanistan women football team, they arrived at Torkham Border from Afghanistan,” said Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry.

Assistant Commissioner Akbar Iftikhar told local media that the team and their family members were allowed to enter Pakistan via the land route after verification of valid documents. The swift arrangement was made after the girls sought urgent help from Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan for temporary visas for them and their families.

Their evacuation was made possible with the joint efforts by London-based NGO Football for Peace in cooperation with the Pakistan government and PFF. President of PFF Ashfaq Hussain Shah said that they rushed to make arrangements for the travel of the Afghan women team soon after learning about their request.

Afghan women athletes and their family members are expected to stay in Peshawar before proceeding to Lahore under strict security arrangements. However, their stay in Pakistan is expected to be temporary as the sportswomen are seeking refuge in a European country or the United States.

The Afghan national junior girls team were reportedly due to travel to Qatar but their trip was cancelled after the August 26 bomb blast at Kabul airport which saw foreign forces speed up the airlift operation, leaving many behind, especially those who did not have passports and other documentation.

Several female athletes have fled Afghanistan, fearing that they would not be able to continue their career in sports under the Taliban regime. However, Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) chairman Azizullah Fazli told SBS Radio that he is still hopeful women will be able to play cricket as the organisation has not received any Taliban directive to restrict women from playing cricket.