LANDI KOTAL: Pakistan, for the first time opened its Torkham border with Afghanistan round the clock on Monday, albeit on a trial basis, to enhance bilateral trade and facilitate movement of pedestrians across the border.

Customs and immigration departments deputed their additional staff to handle the night or second shift operations, as was desired and directed by the federal and provincial governments.

The border security guards and National Logistic Cell staff turned on the newly installed additional lights after the sunset that illuminated the entire compound at the border zero crossing.

There was, however, a little ‘hustle bustle’ as the vehicles loaded with trade goods had completed their custom clearance on both sides of the border around 8pm and the additional custom staff deputed for night shift retired to their living quarters by 9pm.

Sources told Dawn that very few Afghans went back to their country after the scheduled timing of border closing as most of the people, who regularly travel between Pakistan and Afghanistan, did not know about the new development.

Most of people travelling between Pakistan and Afghanistan regularly unaware about the new arrangement

Habib Rehman, a local trader, told Dawn that around 120 loaded vehicles came from Afghanistan on the first day (Monday) while nearly 200 vehicles loaded with Pakistani export items crossed over to Afghanistan.

He said that mutual trade between the two neighbouring countries had decreased considerably in the recent years and it would take some time to ‘reap’ the benefits of 24/7 opening of Torkham border.

Sabir Khan, another local trader, said that the news about round the clock opening of border was not properly propagated and thus there was little enthusiasm among those, who were present on the first day of the border opening for 24 hours.

Meanwhile, Khyber Deputy Commissioner Mehmud Aslam Wazir along with Customs Collector Arbab Qaisar Khan, NLC general manager Col Aziz and Wing Commander Chitral Scouts Col Faisal paid a visit to the border crossing point late on Monday evening and assessed the arrangements.

They expressed satisfaction over the new arrangements and urged the staff present on duty to enhance their capacity and provide maximum facilities to traders, transporters and pedestrians.

POLIO: The health officials claimed to have vaccinated 98.8 per cent of children under the age of five against polio disease during the recently concluded five-day campaign in Khyber tribal district.

They said that half of the total 213,030 children under the age of five in Khyber refused taking polio drops immediately after the sudden outbreak of demonstrations against polio vaccination in Mashukhel locality of Peshawar in April that year.

Officials said that convincing the refusing children and their parents was an uphill task prior to the start of August 26 vaccination campaign.

They said that they had to arrange a series of awareness sessions with tribal elders, clerics, public representatives, teachers, students, journalists and even ordinary tribesmen to dispel the negative impression about polio drops created after the ‘Mashukhel drama’.

Officials said that although the nationwide campaign ended but they were still in ‘pursuit’ of missing children and few refusing families in different parts of Khyber till Sunday.

Dr Shams, focal person for polio vaccination in Khyber, told Dawn that alongside the entire staff of the health department, other line departments and district administration had made extensive efforts to make the campaign a success.

He said that the results are beyond their expectations. He added that they were expecting a maximum of 70 per cent achievement of their goal.

He said that none of the health teams out of the total over 900 received any refusal case from 51 union councils of Khyber during the campaign.

According to official figures, only one polio case was reported from Khyber during the current year. The officials are optimistic that with successful social mobilisation campaign coupled with hard work and dedication of their health workers, no new case would emerge in the remaining three months.

Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2019