Thousands of Afghans cross Torkham after relaxation in travel rules

Published April 8, 2020
A large number of Afghans move towards Torkham border near Machani checkpost after government announced opening of the crossing on Monday. — White Star
A large number of Afghans move towards Torkham border near Machani checkpost after government announced opening of the crossing on Monday. — White Star

LANDI KOTAL: Hundreds of thousands of stranded Afghan nationals frantically ran towards the Torkham border crossing to avail the opportunity to go back to their homeland on Tuesday after Pakistanir authorities relaxed travelling rules following a sudden surge in their number at the border.

Authorities had earlier on Monday planned to allow only 1,000 Afghans with valid travel documents to go back on daily basis till April 9.

The same number of Afghans with their passports stamped with Pakistani visas was allowed to cross over to their country on Monday.

The situation on Tuesday, however, turned ‘unruly’ as thousands of stranded Afghans, with large number of women and children among them, flocked to Torkham border from different parts of the country to avail the opportunity to go back to their homeland.

Officials say border will remain open till April 9 as per govt’s decision

Owing to the huge ‘influx’ of Afghans, with most without legal travel documents, Pakistani border authorities opened the gates and allowed every Afghan present on the occasion to cross the border.

Video footages of the border crossing showed overjoyed Afghans of all ages running towards the border crossing and going back to their country. Immigration officials at Torkham border said that it was literally impossible for them to maintain any record of the Afghans going back.

The local administration had made elaborate arrangements for the returning Afghans both at Torkhum border and in Landi Kotal by providing them with free food and a night stay for those, who could not cross the border on Monday.

Officials said that travel relaxation was made at the request of the Afghan authorities stationed on their side of the border as they wanted maximum number of their stranded nationals to go back to their country.

They said that Torkhum border would remain open till April 9 as per the federal government’s announcement.

Meanwhile, border security officials of Pakistan and Afghanistan held a flag meeting at Torkham on Tuesday and discussed matters related to the return of stranded Afghans and Pakistanis on both sides of the border.

Participants of the meeting discussed in detail possibilities of allowing stranded ordinary Pakistanis, traders and transporters along with their loaded and empty vehicles on Afghan side to cross the border.

They also discussed the possibility of resuming bilateral trade along with tackling the issue of effectively controlling spread of coronavirus on both sides of the border.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2020

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