‘Land mafia behind Afghan market dispute in Peshawar’

Pakistan on Saturday regretted the Afghanistan government’s decision to indefinitely close its consulate in Peshawar over a property dispute. Afghanistan indefinitely closed its consulate in Peshawar on Friday, protesting the alleged removal of the Afghan flag from Firdous Market in the city. Afghanistan claims sole ownership of the property.

The Pakistan Foreign Office (FO) said, “Regret the announcement that the Consulate General of Afghanistan in Peshawar has been closed in protest at this point. We hope that this step would be immediately reviewed and that a private legal case would not be allowed to adversely affect the relations between the two brotherly countries.”

The FO regretted that facts about the property in question were being distorted. The office said the market issue was between a citizen and a bank from Afghanistan and that the case was settled in favor of the Pakistani citizen in 1998. The FO said Pakistan “rejects any comments casting aspersions on the judicial process in Pakistan.”

Earlier, Afghanistan Ambassador to Pakistan Shukrullah Atif Mashal had condemned the Peshawar police’s action of removing the Afghan national flag from the market in an overnight operation. Mashal said the market is the property of the Afghan government which it owned before partition of India.

However, the Pakistan government maintains that a Pakistani citizen had filed a court case saying the plot had been allotted to him by the government in place of properties he left in India after partition. The Pakistani court had settled the matter in favor of the individual.

Afghan Consul General Muhammad Hashim Niazi said the land mafia was behind the dispute and its motive was to sow discord between the two countries. The Afghan diplomat has urged Islamabad to suspend the court verdict and resolve the issue through dialogue. On October 8, the Peshawar district administration had evicted 180 Afghan shopkeepers from the market and removed the country’s national flag.

Meanwhile, Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) head Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao on Saturday asked the federal government to take corrective steps to prevent relations from getting strained between Pakistan and Afghanistan after Afghan government closed its consulate in Peshawar.

Through a statement, he said that Afghanistan’s decision to close its consulate in Peshawar for an indefinite period would affect trade activities between the two countries. “This issue will strain relations between Islamabad and Kabul if corrective steps are not taken by the government,” he maintained.

Aftab Sherpao said though Pakistan recently inaugurated the opening of the Torkham border crossing for 24 hours, the closure of the Afghan consulate in Peshawar would have a negative effect on trade activities. He said the issue would sow discord between the two countries, urging the Pakistani government to solve the dispute through diplomatic channels.

He added that the closure of the consulate would create problems for the business community, traders and other people. The QWP leader said that trade volume between Pakistan and Afghanistan was already low, urging the government to take steps to boost trade and business activities between the two brotherly countries.

Meanwhile, civil society activists on Saturday termed the raid on Afghan market and removal of Afghanistan’s flag in Afghan market an insult to Afghans and asked Pakistan to reinstate the flag and apologies over the incident.

According to protesters, Afghan Market or Afghanistan National Bank is the property of Afghanistan but Pakistani officials and police recently tried to usurp it.

Farid Selani, head of the Afghanistan National Interest Support Group, headed a protest in front of Pakistan’s Embassy in Kabul, and said Afghan Market was Afghanistan’s property and paid taxes for years.

“We condemn this undiplomatic move from Pakistan in strong words. Pakistan don’t have the right to remove our national flag from our property.”

Mohammad Asif Akbari, head of the Afghanistan Development Network, said: “Afghan Market is our property, and this will remain ours despite restrictions from Pakistan.”

They asked Pakistan to respect Afghanistan’s national interest, identity and seek apology from Afghans after this action.

A resolution was passed at the end which termed attack on Afghan market against diplomatic norms an attack on the friendship of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Kabul Times

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