PARACHINAR: Authorities have closed three border crossing points with Afghanistan in Kurram tribal region for indefinite period after a suicide attack on a checkpost.

The closure of the border has brought bilateral trade between the two countries to a standstill. Eyewitnesses said that long queues of loaded trucks and containers were seen on both sides of the border at Kherlachi and Borki, two major checkposts near the border with Afghanistan in the area.

A suicide bomber, reportedly approaching to Kherlachi checkpost from the other side of the border, blew himself up on Friday. Two people including a soldier of Frontier Corps suffered injuries in the attack.

Officials said that timely action by the paramilitary soldier averted major catastrophe. The checkpost was immediately closed after the suicide attack.

Trucks loaded with different items stranded in the area since Friday

Syed Jalal, a local trader, told Dawn by telephone that more than 500 trucks, some loaded with perishable items and poultry, had lined up at Kherlachi and Borki checkposts since Friday.

The trader, who exports poultry to Afghanistan via Kherlachi, said that chickens were dying owing to closure of the border. He said that 12 trucks loaded with chickens were stranded at Kherlachi.

“Dozens of chickens have already perished despite sprinkling fresh water on the trucks,” said Mr Jalal. He added that a large number of trucks could be seen on the Afghanistan side, waiting for the reopening of the border.

Sources said that repatriating Afghan refugees were also stranded in the area. These returning families were on their way to Afghanistan after verification of their documents at the UN voluntary repatriation centers in Peshawar and Nowshera.

An official said that checkpost at Teri Mingal, some 30 kilometres west of Parachinar, was closed after suicide attack. Security along the border has been beefed up after the incident.

Another official said that border with Afghanistan in Kurram Agency was closed for indefinite period. He said that paramilitary forces started erecting barbed wire along the border at Kherlachi and Borki. He said that a high level team would investigate the incident and review security arrangements.

Like Torkham crossing point, the federal government had planned to build proper gate at Kherlachi checkpost to block illegal cross-border movement between the two countries. Pakistan has no immigration facilities at Kherlachi and Borki. These crossing points were used only for trade between the two countries.

Kherlachi and Borki have become major hubs of trade since the government closed Ghulam Khan checkpost in North Waziristan Agency after security forces launched operation against militants in June 2014.

Officials said that volume of export at Kherlachi was around $30 million per month and trade could further increase if required infrastructure was put in place. They said that proposal was under consideration to acquire land to build proper customs facility at Kherlachi. Afghan government has already constructed warehouses near the border.

Published in Dawn October 17th, 2016



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