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Afghans sheltering in Pakistan on their way to Canada tell of harrowing journey

By Paul Workman

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    ISLAMABAD / TORONTO (CTV Network) — Afghans accepted for settlement in Canada are beginning to make their way to safety through Pakistan. It’s a fearsome, uncertain journey from Kabul to the Pakistan border through winding mountain roads and Taliban checkpoints.

The capital of Pakistan has suddenly become a crucial stopover on the road to freedom.

Two families who have found a brief haven in Islamabad on their path to Canada told CTV News that the journey has been hard.

“We are very happy we can go to Canada,” Shagofa Shams Nasorie said.

Nasorie made the harrowing overland journey with her husband and three children, never sure if Pakistan would let them in, even with a special VISA for Canada.

“They came with a list, read out our names, and then we passed,” Nasorie said.

It’s been two weeks since the last Canadian flight left the Kabul airport ahead of the U.S. deadline to pull troops out of the country. Although Canada evacuated roughly 3,700 people by planes, thousands of others with connections to Canada were left behind, forced to find another way out of the country.

Pakistan’s borders have been closed to most Afghans.

Only those with a guaranteed onward journey are now getting through, and in small numbers.

Nasorie and her family are being put up in a guest house, but without passports they’re afraid to go outside, even for a walk.

Other relatives are staying nearby, arriving in small groups, careful not to attract attention on the road.

Mursal Shams, a student on her way to Canada, told CTV News that they left in the night.

“We left at 12 and got to the guest house the next night.”

Families have had to field security issues along the way.

It’s now a matter of waiting for Canada to arrange a flight — with the trauma of leaving Afghanistan still raw and painful.

“For everyone, their country is beautiful,” Shams said.

Looking ahead, she hopes Canada will be a new start.

The journey out of Kabul by road is treacherous, and for those few with VISAs for Canada, Pakistan has offered a small window of escape.

With files from Alexandra Mae Jones

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Sonja Puzic

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Regional

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