LANDI KOTAL: Hundreds of vehicles loaded with goods remained stranded on Peshawar-Torkham Highway and at private parking places in Landi Kotal owing to an unspecified row between the border authorities of Pakistan and Afghanistan over the release of vehicles from both sides of Torkham.
Transporters at Torkham told this scribe that they were not allowed to cross the border into Afghanistan despite being issued a gate pass by the relevant authorities after completion of their security customs clearance on September 30.
They said that it was unusual for them to be barred from crossing the border after they were issued gate passes as nobody was then authorised to stop them from proceeding ahead.
‘Unspecified’ row between border authorities of Pakistan and Afghanistan slows down goods transportation
The frustrated drivers said that no one among the staff of various government departments was giving them any information as to why they were stopped from going to Afghanistan despite fulfillment of all the legal formalities.
They said that only few vehicles were allowed by the staff of National Logistic Cell and border security to cross the border on daily basis despite official claims about keeping the border crossing opened round the clock.
Custom officials at Torkham, on condition of anonymity, also acknowledged slowing down of goods traffic to Afghanistan from Pakistan. They, however, did not cite reasons for delay in sending the ‘cleared’ vehicles across the border.
Sources told this scribe that Afghan border authorities too had ‘reciprocated’ by slowing down the dispatch of vehicles, both loaded and empty, to Pakistan.
An Afghan driver said that Afghan authorities at their side of the border abandoned their official duties at around 5pm when their duty timing ended and custom clearance was stopped till next morning.
Some of the drivers said that at least 10 days of official work suspension on both sides of the border also caused sudden congestion of goods vehicles.
They said that clearance of goods was suspended on Pakistan side for at least eight days on different occasions owing to two-time cancellation of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Torkham and then the formal inauguration of 24/7 border operation by him besides Muharram holidays.
“The Afghan government closed the border for two days during presidential elections and all these days trade convoys were forced to stay in Karachi, different cities of Punjab and Peshawar,” they said. They added that it would take at least two weeks to clear the backlog.
Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2019