LANDI KOTAL: More than 20,000 stranded Afghans went back to their country via Torkham during the last four days of border reopening.
Officials told Dawn that the last day was comparatively calm as only about 1,100 Afghans, mostly men, crossed the border prior to its closure. The total number of returned Afghans during the four days was 20,066, they said.
Officials said that the second and third day (April 7 and 8) were very tough for them as the ‘influx’ of the stranded Afghan was beyond their expectations.
“Cumulatively, almost 18,000 Afghans, including men, women and children, went back home in these two days as the government had relaxed its immigration policy by allowing just all and sundry t cross the border,” an official told this scribe on condition of anonymity.
He said that border remained opened till mid night on Wednesday, April 8, while it was closed at around 10:30pm on Tuesday, the second day of its reopening. “On the first day, we allowed only 1,000 Afghans, who all possessed valid travel documents,” said the official. He added that they could not keep pace with the process of immigration due to large number of returning Afghans.
Official figures showed that on Thursday, 485 Afghans with valid visas on their passports, 461 with their Afghan national identity cards and 57 with Proof of Registration Cards (POR) were allowed to go back to their homeland.
Officials said that they had completed all arrangements for resumption of the bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan via Torkham from Friday (today).
Pakistan had earlier announced to resume bilateral trade with Afghanistan on a restricted basis with more emphasis on the health screening of both drivers to check transmission of coronavirus on any side of the border.
The Khyber district administration in assistance with local health authorities have also established four separate quarantine centres in Landi Kotal where suspected Covid-19 patients would be kept after their arrival from Afghanistan.
Shamsul Islam, an official, said that stranded Pakistanis and transporters would be kept at those quarantine centres for 14 days where they would be provided with all health facilities along with free food. He said that the administration and health staff would conduct regular monitoring of the centres and would refer those, who tested positive for Covid-19 to Services Hospital in Peshawar for further treatment.
Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2020