People disembark from a chartered Air Belgium Afghanistan evacuation flight at Melsbroek Military Airport, in Melsbroek, Belgium. The plane contained individuals who previously had helped the Belgian mission in Afghanistan. The plane landing in Melsbroek originated in Islamabad, Pakistan. Image Credit: AP

Islamabad: In the last two weeks, Pakistan has emerged as the “biggest base” for urgent evacuation of foreigners from Afghanistan after the chaotic situation in Kabul, Pakistan armed forces spokesperson said.

“Right now, the biggest base in the immediate vicinity of Afghanistan for evacuation of foreigners is in Pakistan,” Major General Babar Iftikhar told reporters at a press briefing on Friday.

Since August 15, Pakistan has helped evacuate more than 7,000 foreigners from the neighbouring country through air and land routes. After the deadly Kabul bomb attacks, hundreds of foreigners have already arrived in Islamabad and Karachi for their onward travel to other destinations.

Pakistan has allowed hundreds of foreign military and commercial flights to use its airspace for airlift operations from Kabul. By August 27, more than 113 military and commercial flights have landed in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the Ground Lines of Communication (GLOCs) have remained open that serves as the main logistic lifeline for US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has also opened both its major border crossings, Torkham and Chaman, for trade and travel because “Afghanistan is a landlocked country and you cannot close the borders indefinitely” on humanitarian grounds as well, the DG ISPR Gen Iftikhar said. The situation on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border was “normal and under control,” he assured.

DG ISPR said that the military has “secured” Pakistan’s side of the 2611-km long border by fencing 90 per cent of the Pak-Afghan border and installing border forts, surveillance systems and latest technology to ward off “any spillover of insecurity and instability into Pakistan.” Responding to a question on the possible influx of refugees, he said that “no refugees” have crossed into Pakistan since the Taliban takeover.

Pakistan is among the few countries that continue to maintain their embassies in Kabul and is issuing visas on arrival to all diplomats, foreigners and journalists fleeing Kabul over security concerns. “Pakistan is providing all possible assistance to all our international interlocutors,” said Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan.

Although Pakistan has clarified that it does not have the capacity or the economic resources to host more Afghan refugees, but the border is open for Afghans carrying valid Afghan IDs or proof of being a registered Afghan refugee in Pakistan. Priority is given to students and those Afghans seeking medical help, particularly women and children.