KARACHI: The Interior Ministry notified opening of three border crossings on Pakistan’s western border for trade traffic late on Friday night.
The border crossings had been closed on May 1 as part of the larger lockdowns being implemented across the country.
“I am directed to refer to this ministry’s letter of even no dated May 1, 2020 on the subject cited above and to convey that competent authority has approved management of Afghan transit/bilateral trade and pedestrian movement along Pak-Afghan border with effect from June 22,” the notification reads.
Three border crossings have been specifically ordered opened for 24 hours, six days a week. They are Torkham, Chaman and Ghulam Khan border terminal. The notification says the opening is for import and export traffic and “unlimited number of trucks will be allowed per day for both Afghan transit and bilateral trade: while ensuring all Covid-19-related standard operating procedures and protocols” are being followed.
Trade traffic will be allowed to transit six days a week except Saturday. On that day the borders will be open for pedestrian traffic.
“Saturday will be reserved for pedestrian movement only at Torkham, Chaman and Ghulam Khan border terminals, as per procedure vogue” the notification reads. “Standard Quarantine Protocols and SOPs (as applicable to air passengers) will be applicable for pedestrians as well.
Pakistan exported Rs128 billion worth of goods to Afghanistan last year. The border crossings were opened for round the clock operation in September 2019 by the PTI government, but complaints persisted that staffing levels at the borders had not been increased to take maximum advantage of this.
The borders were closed when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. After a large number of returnees from Iran tested positive, fears mounted that returnees from Afghanistan could pose the same danger.
Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2020