QUETTA: The Taliban, who captured the Afghan district of Spin Boldak recently, closed the border with Pakistan at Chaman on Friday, suspending traffic as well as trade between the two countries that had been resumed only two weeks ago.

Immediately after the Taliban seizure of the Afghan border district last month, Pakistan had closed its side of the crossing, landlocked Afghanistan’s second-busiest entry point and main commercial artery to the sea, before reopening it.

On Thursday night the Taliban’s shadow governor for Kandahar province issued a statement that announced the closing down of the border with Pakistan at Chaman, and said Islamabad should relax rules for crossing the frontier.

As a result of the closure, hundreds of trucks carrying Afghan transit and import/export goods got stranded at Chaman, in Pakistan, and Wesh town, in Afghanistan.

Shadow governor of Kandahar province says border crossing to remain closed until Islamabad relaxes rules

When contacted, Pakistani authorities at Chaman confirmed the closure of the Afghan border on the directives of the Taliban.

“The Taliban deployed to the Afghan border town of Wesh placed concrete barriers and other barricades at the border crossing, blocking it on Friday morning,” said an official.

He said the Pakistani officials too had closed the border crossing from their side. The Afghan insurgents were not even allowing pedestrians to cross the border, the official added.

In his statement in Pashto, the Taliban governor of Kandahar said the border would remain closed until Islamabad relaxed rules and eased what he called restrictions imposed on Afghan nationals desirous of crossing the border.

He alleged that Pakistani authorities were not allowing Afghan nationals who had entered Pakistan for medical treatment to return to Afghanistan. He also objected to the requirement of producing a valid visa for crossing over into Pakistan.

He was of the view that Islamabad should allow all Afghans in possession of Afghan identity cards to cross the border. He also suggested that small traders from the two countries should be allowed to go to Wesh or Chaman for engaging in business activities.

Trade with Afghanistan and Afghan transit trade had resumed two weeks ago through the Chaman border when Pakistan opened its side of the crossing following consultations with Taliban officials in Spin Boldak, as members of the business community on both sides of the frontier wanted early resumption of business activities.

The people engaged in import and export of goods on both sides of the border had agreed to pay double taxes in Afghanistan as the Taliban were also collecting taxes and other duties. The insurgents recently issued a 19-page document in which they announced their own tax tariff and other duties on import and export of goods.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said his group’s leadership had endorsed the move, Reuters added on Friday.

Since the US-led foreign troops began leaving Afghanistan earlier this year, fighting between the Taliban and Afghan forces has escalated significantly. In recent weeks, the Taliban have advanced rapidly on provincial capitals and targeted top government officials inside Kabul.

The insurgents have also taken control of several border crossings, including with Iran and Central Asian countries, but the crossing with Pakistan provides a significant customs revenue.

Afghan government data indicates the route was used by 900 trucks a day before the Taliban seized it. The closure could impact import of medicines and other essential goods as violence has sharply escalated in Afghanistan amidst a pandemic, with the United Nations saying hundreds of thousands have been displaced internally.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2021

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