LANDI KOTAL: The border crossing at Torkham was closed again for all types of vehicular and pedestrian traffic on Tuesday after Afghan border guards objected to the laying of barbed wire near the border by their Pakistani counterparts.

According to official sources, personnel of the army engineering corps were busy fencing the bed of a dry stream when Afghan border guards raised objection on the pretext that their government had not been taken into confidence on such activity near the border crossing.

The officials insisted that the Afghan officials concerned were told about the fencing much in advance and they (the Afghans) had already erected barbed wire in Bacha Maina and Shaheed Morr areas.

Pakistan and Afghanistan sometime ago agreed to take each other into confidence whenever they would carry out any construction activity within 30 metres of both sides of the border.

“This time it was more than 30 metres deep into our territory and even then we had sent a message to the Afghan authorities in advance to avoid any misunderstanding”, an official of the local political administration told Dawn after the border was closed on the orders from the Frontier Crops headquarters in Peshawar.

Khyber Agency Political Agent Khalid Mehmud told this correspondent that the border would remain closed till his administration received a formal response from the Afghan government on the issue.

“We had duly informed the Afghan authorities at Torkham border much in advance about our plan of fencing some unauthorised points at the border but they did not respond on time”, he said. “Being a sovereign country, we have every right to make our own decisions,” he insisted.

However, Mr Mehmud expressed the hope that the issue would be sorted out as the Afghan officials had promised to consult their high-ups in Kabul.

The border authorities have intensified checking of Afghan nationals crossing over to Pakistan and restricted their movement to a barbed footpath along the border since the terrorist attack on the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda in January this year.

The authorities said that no Afghan would be allowed to enter Pakistan without valid travel documents after June 1. The National Logistic Cell has in collaboration with the Customs authorities installed a computerised passengers scanning machine at the border to conduct body search of Afghans entering Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2016