LANDI KOTAL: The federal government has decided in principal to fence selected parts of the country’s border with Afghanistan to stop suspected Afghan people from entering Pakistani territory, said a security official here on Monday.
The official told Dawn that the border fencing would begin in ‘a couple of months’ in line with a recent decision made in a high-level meeting.
In April last year, too, a bid to fence some portions of the border was made. It however caused a dalmatic row drawing Afghanistan’s strong reaction and leading to the closure of Torkham border for five days.
In the past, such bids had attracted scathing criticism of the country’s ‘nationalist’ political parties.
The security official however insisted the border fencing was part of the newly-implemented border management plan, which had yielded ‘positive and effective’ results.
“Not a single suspected militant or suicide bomber has crossed Torkham border into Pakistan since June last year when the border management policy was executed,” he said.
The official said the complete data of the visitors to Pakistan via Torkham border was maintained under the new policy and that the data was later crosschecked if and when a terrorist incident took place in the country.
He claimed no trace of any saboteur’s entry to the country from Afghanistan had been found since June last year declaring the new border management mechanism a success.
‘We understand that the closure of border was not an ideal decision as both the neighbouring countries have mutual interests and heavily depend on each other in the field of trade and necessary items of daily use,” he said.
The official said though militancy couldn’t be completely eliminated with such measures, they would help drastically minimise terrorist incidents in the country.
He hinted at the repeal of the rahdari pass for the people living on both sides of the border saying the facility was misused by some ‘unscrupulous elements’.
The border authorities said recently that over 4,000 rahdari passes were issued to Shinwari tribesmen of both Pakistani and Afghan origins.
“We will be very strict once the border is reopened. The idea of a ‘soft border’ will also be abandoned as no more relaxation will be granted to daily wagers and schoolchildren of Afghan origin as such facilities too were misused in the recent past,” he said.
The official said the contrabands including explosives and foreign currencies were recovered from handcarts operated by young daily wagers and empty vehicles at Torkham border.
Meanwhile, with the border’s closure entering 11th consecutive day on Monday, business activities remained completely suspended with some Afghan families still lodging in different localities of Landi Kotal in the hope of the border’s reopening.
The border security officials allowed around 250 Afghans to return late on Friday but they later issued a ‘clear-cut’ notification regarding the complete closure of the border and directed Afghan nationals not to approach the border until its reopening is formally announced.
The notification however said the permission would be granted to the seriously-ill Afghans along with one of his or her attendant to go back to Afghanistan purely on humanitarian grounds.
The security officials insisted that an early reopening of the border was the desire of both the countries as bilateral trade was affected due to border security concerns.
They said the cross-border movement should not be made hostage to terrorist incidents but unfortunately it wasn’t possible to continue with the ‘routine border affairs’ after the terrorist attacks in the country.
Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2017