KHYBER: Desperate Afghans, both men and women, made a steady entry into Pakistan after Islamabad issued formal notification on Thursday afternoon about resumption of cross-border pedestrian movement via Torkham border after over five months of suspension.
Officials at Torkham said that as many as 240 Afghan nationals entered Pakistan by utilising the online visa facility at the border crossing while 108 Pakistanis also availed the opportunity to come back to their country.
They said that pedestrian movement was restored after they received written instructions from the Ministry of Interior in Islamabad following an approval by the federal cabinet.
Officials said that all the people, who were allowed to enter Pakistan, were issued online visas as per the instructions of federal government.
Over 200 Afghans enter Pakistan after getting online visas
Pakistan announced on May 8 to close all its borders with Afghanistan for pedestrian movement in order to contain the transmission of coronavirus from across the border into the country.
The restrictions were initially announced for the last week of the month of fasting and first week of Eidul Fitr during which Pakistan expected an influx of Afghans into the country. The ban was, however, later extended for an indefinite period.
However, the government allowed Pakistanis to come back from Afghanistan and also the Afghans stranded in Pakistan to go back during all these months when the Torkham border was closed for routine pedestrian movement.
Officials said that 10,000 to 12,000 Afghan nationals would travel between Pakistan and Afghanistan on a daily basis prior to the imposition of ban on cross-border pedestrian movement.
The ban had also impacted the jobs and occupations of nearly 8,000 daily wagers and porters, who were directly linked with the frequent cross-border movement of pedestrians.
These affected daily wagers and porters had established a protest camp near the border, demanding of the authorities to lift ban on pedestrian movement.
They had also threatened to block the road leading to Torkham border on October 25 if their demand was not met.
Earlier in the day, local officials received another batch of Afghan students, who are studying in different educational institutions of the country. Officials said that as many as 570 Afghan students arrived in Pakistan via Torkham border during the last four to five days.
These students were later sent to their respective educational institutions in different cities of Pakistan. Pakistan had made the 10-day quarantine mandatory for all Afghan students prior to their restarting of formal studies in their respective educational institutions.
Pakistan had in the meantime also facilitated the arrival of hundreds of Afghans and other foreign nationals to the country via Torkham border after they were granted special travel permission on the request of the international community after the Taliban took over Afghanistan in mid August.
Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2021