QUETTA/LANDI KOTAL: With the row between Islamabad and Kabul over the construction of a gate at the Torkham border crossing still unresolved, Pakistani authorities on Friday started building a gate at the country’s border with Iran at Taftan to curb illegal trade.
Frontier Corps Sector Commander Brigadier Khalid Beg and Balochistan Collector Customs Saeed Ahmed Jadoon laid the foundation stone of the ‘Pakistan Gate’ at Taftan in Chagai district.
The construction of the gate will complete in two months at a cost of Rs15 million. It will be inaugurated on Independence Day (Aug 14).
Iran has already constructed a trade gate inside its border at Mir Java in Zahedan, capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province, and has been demanding that Pakistan build a similar gate on its side of the border. Iran has also erected 10-foot-high walls at various places along with its border with Pakistan.
Speaking at the Taftan ceremony, Brig Beg said the purpose of building the gate was to make border management more effective. He said it would be a trade gate and would facilitate thousands of traders and tourists crossing into Pakistan.
Mr Jadoon said the gate was being jointly constructed by the Balochistan customs and the Frontier Corps and it would be a symbol of the country on the border. He said that although the gate was needed by Pakistan to improve border management, it was also requested by the Iranians. It would help curb illegal trade on both sides of the border.
The government is also constructing a ‘Pakistan House’ at Taftan to provide facilities to people going to Iran and Iraq for pilgrimage.
“The construction of Pakistan House is in progress and will be completed soon,” said Chagai Commissioner Qadir Bakhsh Pirkani.
A large number of tribal elders, senior civil and military officials and other people attended the foundation stone-laying ceremony.
Construction of the gate at Torkham continued on Friday, albeit at a snail’s pace, as the border crossing remained closed for the fifth consecutive day.
Officials said the construction work was under way with intervals because of hot weather and fasting by workers.
They said Torkham was still under curfew and no one was allowed to go near the border. The border closure resulted in a complete halt to all trading activities between Pakistan and Afghanistan with hundreds of trucks loaded with merchandise stranded on the main road connecting Peshawar with Torkham.
Meanwhile, Afghan security guards, who had vacated their posts near the border’s zero-point on Sunday, returned to their positions after a cessation in hostilities between the two countries.
Army and FC personnel remained alert on the Pakistan side of the border. Officials said they were still awaiting a high-level Afghan delegation comprising senior security officials for a ‘flag meeting’ at the border.
The Afghan delegation, which was expected to come to Torkham on Thursday, did not turn up till late Friday night.
Meanwhile, tribal elders in Landi Kotal offered to mediate in talks between the two countries to ease the tension. They termed the clashes between Afghan and Pakistani troops unfortunate and said they were ready to hold talks with elders from the Afghan side to settle the dispute.
A suspected Afghan national was arrested along with illegal weapons near the Chaman border on Friday, officials said.
FC personnel arrested the man near the Friendship Gate and seized two pistols and bullets from him.
The suspect is said to belong to Ghazni in Afghanistan.
He was handed over to the authorities concerned for interrogation.
Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2016