Pakistan on Friday announced a relaxation in its visa policy for journalists and media workers stuck in Afghanistan, where the security situation has been worsening in the wake of a sweeping Taliban offensive.
“The Government of Pakistan has decided to ease its visa policy for journalists and media workers stranded in Afghanistan in view of the evolving situation in Afghanistan,” a statement issued by Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed said.
The statement urged the foreign journalists and media workers “who want to leave Afghanistan via Pakistan” to apply for a Pakistani visa.
“The interior ministry will issue visas to such international journalists and workers on a priority basis,” it added.
It further said the government had taken the decision to relax the visa policy in consideration of the safety of the media personnel working in Afghanistan,
The announcement comes as the Taliban on Friday seized more major cities as they raced to take full control of Afghanistan and inched closer to Kabul, with the United States and Britain deploying thousands of troops to evacuate their citizens from the capital.
The evacuation orders came as the Taliban took control of Kandahar — the nation’s second-biggest city — in the insurgency’s heartland, leaving only Kabul and pockets of other territories in government hands.
The government has now effectively lost most of the country following an eight-day blitz into urban centres by the Taliban that has also stunned Kabul’s American backers.
The first wave of the offensive was launched in early May after the United States and its allies all but withdrew their forces from Afghanistan, with President Joe Biden determined to end two decades of war by September 11.
Last month, NAI, a rights group supporting independent media in Afghanistan, reported that at least 30 journalists and media workers had been killed, wounded or abducted by militant groups in Afghanistan this year.
Earlier this week, suspected Taliban fighters killed an Afghan radio station manager in Kabul and kidnapped a journalist in southern Helmand province.
In July, Reuters journalist Danish Siddiqui was killed while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters near a border crossing with Pakistan.