LANDI KOTAL: The local authorities have announced all Pakistani nationals will be required to produce passports at Torkham from today (Saturday)) to get permission for cross-border movement.

Earlier, Pakistanis used to travel across the border by producing computerised national identity cards, route permits and rahdari cards.

The officials insisted the passport condition had been introduced over the growing incidence of the production of forged documents by travellers.

A joint statement issued here on Friday by the political administration and Khyber Rifles explained the new border entry and exit procedure, while banners were also displayed at prominent places in the area to inform both Pakistani and Afghan nationals about it.

Officials attribute move to seizure of forged CNICs from travellers

The statement said no Pakistani would be allowed to cross the border and return by showing CNIC and that only those carrying valid passports would be allowed the cross-border movement.

“The new restrictions will apply to all Pakistani nationals, including local tribal elders, transporters, traders, journalists and ordinary citizens,” it said, adding that the ‘facility’ of CNIC production in that respect had been withdrawn altogether.

The officials said security agencies had reported the growing use of forged CNICs by Pakistanis to cross the border over the last few months, fearing the entry of terrorists into the country through legal border crossings.

They insisted some Afghan nationals had installed special machines in Nangrahar province of Afghanistan to change the original photo on a Pakistani CNIC to an Afghan national’s keeping the other written information intact.

The officials said the administration didn’t have modern technology on Torkham border to detect forged CNICs and therefore, the passport’s production had been made mandatory for all Pakistani nationals for cross-border movement.

They however said Pakistanis wanting to travel to Afghanistan would be exempted from visa restriction unlike Afghans, who had to get their passports stamped by Pakistani authorities for entry to the country since June 1 last year.

For the first two months after the restrictions were imposed, relaxations were made for Afghan transporters, who were allowed multiple entries to Pakistan on the production of valid route permits.

The officials insisted imports from Afghanistan had considerably declined due to strict implementation of visa conditions for Afghan transporters and traders.

They also said the passport condition for Pakistani nationals adversely affected exports of Pakistani goods to Afghanistan.

The officials however added that a large number of local transporters had applied for passports and that they expected that exports would pick up momentum soon.

They said those without passports had temporarily hired the services of truck drivers having passports.

The officials said the new arrangement would help transporters clear most of their stranded vehicles loaded with goods.

Some officials insisted that the government could relax its rules for hundreds of clearing agents and Afghans studying in Pakistani schools in Torkham after developing a special ‘commuter software’.

They said there were currently over 200 registered customs clearing agents at Torkham with nearly 1,500 staff members directly linked with Pak-Afghan trade.

The officials said staff members of customs clearing offices frequented between the custom offices of both countries daily and that too many times.

They said the carrying of passports by customs clearing agents and their staff members in that manner would stress them out and that there was a possibility of their losing or damaging them.

The officials said they were in contact with the relevant authorities to ease the problem.

They said a proposal about the issuance of special computer generated cards to hundreds of Afghan students studying in Pakistan was also under consideration.

The officials said the number of Afghan nationals visiting Pakistan for multiple purposes had declined in the recent weeks.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2017