Thousands wait for passports as department remains closed

Afghanistan’s passports. File photo. Courtesy: Reuters.

Thousands of people have been waiting for about a month and a half for passports after the Taliban stopped issuing the travel documents claiming the system needs upgrading and the equipment needs repairing.

Afghan people in urgent need of medical treatment in neighboring countries, mainly India and Pakistan, are among those who are waiting for their passports.

Sadiq Watanyar, a Kabul resident, said he has been waiting for a passport for a few months as he needs medical treatment outside the country.

“Doctors in Kabul have instructed me to go to one of the neighboring countries for treatment and I have visited the passport department many times but I have not been able to get one,” said Watanyar.

He said if he does not get a passport, as a last resort, he will travel to a neighboring country illegally as “he is fed up with the situation.”

“I filled out the online form for a passport seven months back and I am still waiting for my turn to get a passport, but now the department is closed,” said another Kabul resident, Ahmad Sarwari.

This comes on the heels of an increase in the number of people leaving the country following political changes in Afghanistan in August 2021. Since then, the issuing of passports under Taliban rule has been sporadic – with the department closing for weeks at a time.

Many people opt for the illegal route, especially to Pakistan, to get the medical help they need.

Iqbal Rahim, another Kabul resident, said he tried to get into Pakistan with his father but failed as they did not have passports.

“I had to return to Kabul with my father who is ill,” said Rahimi.

Meanwhile, a source from the passport department claimed that passports are still being issued but only “to the Taliban” and “to those who pay money to their contacts.”

“Taliban members can get a passport by bringing a letter from relevant institutions,” the source said.

Amu could not independently confirm the claim with other sources.