KHYBER: The all-important Torkham border was reopened for bilateral trade with Afghanistan on Sunday after remaining closed for several hours when Afghan Taliban took control of their side of the border crossing early in the morning.
Landi Kotal Assistant Commissioner Akbar Iftikhar told Dawn that the border security officials agreed to allow trade consignments, mostly perishable food items loaded in trucks and containers, to move across the border after reaching an understanding with Taliban representatives on Afghan side of the border.
He said that trucks loaded with Afghan import items, mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, also came to Pakistan after reaching a verbal understanding between the two sides.
Hundreds of vehicles loaded with multiple trade goods and food items got stranded near Torkham after receiving news about the ‘fall’ of Nangarhar province of Afghanistan to Afghan Taliban late on Saturday evening and their subsequent ‘seizure’ of the Torkham border crossing early in the morning. Pedestrian movement was, however, closed as before.
Farman Khan, a local resident, told Dawn earlier in the morning that the border crossing became nearly deserted with only army and Frontier Corps positioned there while the Customs and Nadra offices were almost vacated as traders, transporters and custom clearing agents were not allowed to go near the border.
The taxi stand too was deserted as pedestrian movement was completely halted. The local market, restaurants and money changer outlets were also closed.
Earlier, local security officials said that they had to temporarily close the border owing to security reasons after Taliban took control of Afghan side of the border. They, however, said that they had not received any formal orders for closure of the border from the federal government.
Mr Iftikhar also said that the later reopening of the border would be permanent as the federal government had not formally notified its closure.
He said that early closure was a temporary arrangement at local level owing to the uncertainty.
Pakistan had on May 8 imposed ban on cross-border pedestrian movement owing to spike in coronavirus cases throughout Afghanistan. The government, however, allowed Afghans stranded in Pakistan to go back to their country, albeit with legal travelling documents.
Similarly, Pakistanis stranded in Afghanistan too were allowed to come back but they were required to undergo Rapid Antigen Tests and later spending 10 days of quarantine period in local hospital.
Afghan students studying in different educational institutions were allowed to come to Pakistan via Torkham and resume their studies after completion of mandatory quarantine period in local quarantine centres.
Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2021