LANDI KOTAL: The Pakistani authorities finally allowed nearly 4,000 Afghan nationals to go back to their country via Torkham border on Wednesday.
The stranded waited in extremely trying conditions near the border for five days before they were allowed to go home. Most of them including ailing women and children had been staying in two mosques in Landi Kotal Bazaar, commercial buildings and even abandoned railway tunnel near Torkham.
The Afghan nationals had either come to Pakistan for treatment or were employed with construction companies in different cities of Punjab and Islamabad.
Officials at Torkham border said that majority of the Afghans had no legal travel documents but they were allowed to go back to their country without undergoing any proper immigration process.
Local police and border forces arranged process of their return in an organised manner to avoid rush and congestion at the border crossing.
Nearly 4,000 Afghan nationals cross Torkham border
The returning Afghans were made to sit in groups, observing the social distancing as per anti-coronavirus standing operating procedures and then were allowed to cross the border in a disciplined manner.
The Khyber tribal district administration, however, was not given any prior intimation about the ‘deportation’ of the stranded Afghans. Officials said that no formal announcement was made about their return for Wednesday nor was the district administration informed about the return procedure.
The exact number of the returned Afghans on Wednesday also could not be ascertained as no official record was kept by any authority.
Custom officials at Torkham said that as many as 85 trucks loaded with fruits and vegetables were allowed to cross over to Afghanistan on Tuesday and Wednesday while another 81 containers taking Afghan Transit Trade goods also availed the opportunity to go to Afghanistan.
Pakistan had earlier allowed limited permission for resumption of trade relations with Afghanistan via Torkham border.
Meanwhile, Capital City Police Officer Mohammad Ali Gandapur also paid a visit to Landi Kotal on Wednesday and inspected a number of police posts besides holding meeting with DPO Mohammad Iqbal and other officials.
He directed the officials not to allow Afghan nationals beyond the Karkhano Market police checkpost in Peshawar to avoid rush at Torkham border.
He also inspected various sites where new checkposts would be established.
Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2020