Cabinet okays new visa regime for Afghans

Marriyum says multiple-entry visa for six months will be issued to traders, workers within 48 hours

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb on Tuesday said the federal cabinet had approved a new visa regime for Afghan citizens, including traders and those who sought to visit the country on medical grounds.

The visa policy for Afghans was reviewed by the Interior Ministry during an apex committee meeting, which also included representatives of the Foreign Office, National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and Board of Investment, Marriyum said while addressing a news conference following the federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Flanked by Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Kashmir Affairs Qamar Zaman Kaira, she said that under the reviewed policy, the Pakistani missions abroad would process the visa applications of Afghans on the basis of existing passport and nationality instead of their country of origin.

In order to further promote bilateral trade with Afghanistan, she said the cabinet had approved the inclusion of a sub-category in the work visa category for drivers, transporters and helpers.

The information minister further said that a multiple-entry visa for six months would be issued within 48 hours, while the Interior Ministry had been authorised to extend the period to a year.

She said the documents required for obtaining the visa would include the applicant’s picture, passport, and the transport company’s registration and employment letters, while the entry visa page would have to be submitted for visa extension.

Marriyum said that Afghans who sought visas in driver, transporter and helper categories were exempted from obtaining the BOI’s letter of recommendation and registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).

The said initiative, according to the minister, was aimed at ensuring the ease of doing business that would eventually boost trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

She said NADRA had been directed to bring changes to the online system after approval of the policy.

A committee had been set up to ensure the continuity of ease of doing business for traders, she added.

The minister said the cabinet approved relaxing the visa policy for those coming from Afghanistan on medical grounds.

Meanwhile, the cabinet had also ratified decisions taken by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) during its meeting held on June 22.

The technical supplementary grants approved by the ECC included Rs125.819 million for various requirements of 6 Aviation Squadron (Antelopes), Cabinet Division (customs duties and payment of clearing agent), Rs40 million for media publicity campaign by the NCOC, Rs1,224.41 million for payment admissible to the families of deceased/martyred families under the Prime Minister’s Assistance Package, Rs39.363 million for purchase of surveillance cameras with accessories for maintaining law and order situation during the upcoming protest/sit-in by a political party and others.

Marriyum said the cabinet had strongly condemned the attack on the polio team in Tank which claimed the lives of two police constables and a health worker.

She said the interior minister had been directed to present a report on the incident in the next meeting of the cabinet.

Replying to media persons questions, she said that an integrated management system was set up at the borders during the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) tenure from 2013 to 2018. Besides, she said an integrated border management system was also set up at airports and borders in 2015.

She said that earlier, whenever visa policy was relaxed for Afghans, NADRA was not included in the process and this was the first time the authority would be monitoring the entire system.

The minister clarified that the effort were made keeping in view the ease of doing business, and a complete mechanism was prepared for its effective use.

To another question, she said that the issue of pay scales and regularisation of APP employees was an old issue. “This is not a problem of only APP but of all corporations, which will be decided in line with the government’s policy,” she added.

She said that the APP management had approved the DPC (Departmental Promotion Committee) of employees, which would be implemented immediately.

The minister said the quota system of plots in the APP would also be decided according to the policy.

She said the APP employees’ issues pertaining to the disparity allowances were being resolved.

Marriyum also informed that Information Secretary Shahera Shahid had approached the Ministry of Finance for that matter and as soon as the notification gets issued, she would go to the protesting employees and announce it there.

Regarding load shedding, Marriyum said the government was taking steps to provide uninterrupted supply of electricity. Work on ongoing power projects, abandoned by the previous regime, had been accelerated, she said.

She said the work on the incomplete projects was started by the PML-N’s previous government but stopped during the “inefficient” regime of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Marriyum said the cases against Ishaq Dar were fake and part of the PTI regime’s political vendetta. She said the former finance minister had every right to return to the country.

She said that Ishaq Dar had rendered great services to Pakistan and nobody could deny his positive contribution for the development of the country.

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