The Foreign Office on Saturday issued a statement rejecting comments by the Afghan foreign ministry which it said “cast aspersions on the judicial process in Pakistan”.
“We reject insinuations contained in the statement issued by the Afghan Foreign Ministry regarding a market in Peshawar. It is deeply regrettable that a distorted and misleading account of the issue and related events has been presented,” said a statement issued by the Foreign Office spokesperson.
The remarks refer to a decision taken by Afghanistan a day earlier to indefinitely close its consulate in Peshawar in protest of the Afghan flag being taken down in a disputed area known as Afghan Market.
The decision came after the Afghan foreign ministry in a statement decried the carrying out of a “night operation for the purpose of demolishing and evacuating the shopkeepers in the Afghan Market in Peshawar”.
“For a brief period of time they had surrounded and besieged the Market and with absolute disrespect lowered the Afghan Flag and the Afghan Market billboard,” the Afghan foreign ministry had claimed in its statement.
Afghan Consul General Muhammad Hashim Niazi, in a subsequent press conference, had termed the removal of the flag from the disputed property a violation of diplomatic norms. He had called upon Islamabad to “suspend the court’s verdict” and solve the issue through diplomatic channels.
He said the land mafia was behind the dispute and its motive was to sow discord between the two countries.
The Foreign Office in its response today pointed out that the issue “was between a private citizen and a purported bank from Afghanistan” and that the court’s verdict on the case in question had been decided in the citizen’s favour in 1998.
“The recent enforcement action by the local administration occurred after legal remedies were exhausted by the Afghan party to this legal dispute. We reject any comments casting aspersions on the judicial process in Pakistan,” read the statement.
The Foreign Office also regretted the closure of the consulate and hoped that the decision would be reviewed.
“We hope that a private legal case would not be allowed to adversely affect the relations between the two brotherly countries,” it concluded the statement by saying.
According to a Dawn report, the district administration in Peshawar had evicted 180 Afghan shopkeepers from the market on October 8 and removed Afghanistan’s national flag after a contempt of court petition was filed in the Peshawar High Court by Syed Intekhab Haider Abidi, the market’s owner, seeking implementation of an earlier judgement in his favour.
The administration later handed over possession of the shops to Abidi.
The market sits in front of the Jinnah Park and is spread over five kanals of land. The Afghan National Bank had been collecting more than Rs1.5 million as rent from tenants per month through its manager.
The place had been in possession of the Afghan government for the last several decades.