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Afghanistan: Head of the Kabul passport office urges patience as anxious crowds continue to gather

KABUL – The head of the Kabul Passport Office has asked thousands of Afghans to wait patiently for documents that could allow them to leave the country as large crowds continue to gather outside, a month after the office suspend operation.

As winter draws to a close and the economic crisis deepens following the sudden withdrawal of foreign aid following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August, crowds around the country’s largest passport-issuing center emphasize their desire to desperation of a large number of citizens to be gone.

“We have tried our best to reopen the office but we are still facing some equipment shortages,” the head of the passport office Alam Gul Haqqani told Reuters in an interview on Sunday. Japan.

Last month, the office was forced to close after equipment used to issue biometric documents broke down under pressure to process thousands of applications a day, but demand has remained steady.

Although the office has been closed for weeks, hundreds of people have gathered outside the fortified compound clutching plastic folders, regularly pushed back by the Taliban security forces.

“I am sure that the office will restart and we will complete all the applications,” Haqqani said. “I assure the nation that no one leaves our office with any reason to be upset.”

He urged people to stay away until the office reopened.

“I’m really sorry about this, I’m very sad that people are facing hardship. They are wasting their money and standing here in vain,” Haqqani said.

“The office is closed, our system is down.”

Some provincial passport offices are still open and officials in Kabul are processing around 2,000-3,000 passports from these offices per day, he said, but it is not yet clear when the Kabul office will open. come back.

As well as equipment problems, Haqqani said officials are working to stem corruption and root out the so-called ‘Commissionkar’ – commission agents promise to ensure prompt processing of applications. Register for a fee.

“We have arrested people who give bribes, from inside and outside the office,” he said. “We will use whatever means we can to clean up the country of bribe takers everywhere.”

(Reporting by James Mackenzie and Mohammad Yunus Yawar; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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