After ban, no Pakistani papers getting through border: Envoy

by Ayesha Hasan and Taha Siddiqui
Originally published in The Express Tribune on 8th October 2012
KABUL: There is confusion on a reported ban on Pakistani newspapers’ entry into Afghanistan. Embassies in Kabul have not been getting newspapers since September 20, which is a cause for concern, said Pakistan Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq while talking to a delegation of Pakistani journalists on a 10-day visit to Afghanistan on Sunday.

But the Afghan authorities insist the ban is just on 15 Urdu dailies and not English papers.

The ambassador said he was not informed why the mainstream English media from Pakistan, including The Express Tribune, were being stopped by the border post.

“[The mainstream] English newspapers have no hate literature. This is a bit too much and really sad,” said Sadiq.

“We raised our concerns with the ministry of information and the foreign ministry in Afghanistan, but they said they were not aware of the ban on mainstream Pakistani English newspapers.”

He said some foreign magazines were also banned. The ban, he said, was not affecting the common reader. However, the foreign embassies in Afghanistan were not receiving any Pakistani newspapers, he added.

Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry spokesperson Sediq Sediqi has denied any ban on the mainstream Pakistani newspapers. “Only 15 Urdu newspapers that have low circulation in Pakistan have been banned for spreading hatred for the Afghan government and supporting the Taliban stance,” he said.

Adding on the issue, a senior official at the embassy said that the Afghan government often acted impulsively because it is a young democracy, and decisions such as the recent ban on the Pakistani newspapers reflected that.

Earlier, the ambassador also discussed bilateral trade relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The ambassador said that the Pakistan-funded development projects in the country have helped create a better image of the country in Afghanistan. He said that Pakistan’s annual trade with Afghanistan is around five billion dollars.

“There are more than 140 trade routes between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he said. However, he added that the illegal cross-border movements, which he said, are detrimental to the trade and law  and order in both countries.

“Most Afghans move in and out without visa and it’s a failure of border control on both sides. It needs to be controlled,” he said.

Elaborating on the future of Afghanistan, the ambassador criticised Pakistan’s past policies of interfering in Afghan internal matters. “We do not really know what will happen after the pull out of International Security Assistance Force, but we are talking with all the stakeholders, especially people from the northern region who were ignored previously,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2012.


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