Closure of Torkham border intensifies woes of traders, transporters

Published February 24, 2023
An Afghan security official stands guard at Torkham border as Afghan people wait to cross into Pakistan. — AFP
An Afghan security official stands guard at Torkham border as Afghan people wait to cross into Pakistan. — AFP

KHYBER: The closure of the Torkham border for the fifth consecutive day intensified the financial and physical woes of traders, transporters and pedestrians as confusion prevailed on Thursday as Afghan authorities reopened their side of the border and Pakistani authorities insisted that they would follow suit after a formal meeting between officials of both countries.

Assistant Commissioner Irshad Momand told Dawn that they were still not given any information from the Afghan side as to why actually the border was closed by them on Sunday night and what prompted them to reopen it on Thursday.

He said that as per border protocols, a formal meeting between the officials of both countries was yet to take place to remove the misunderstandings, devising a proper plan for pedestrian movement on both sides of the border.

“We are still to take up the actual issue at a proper forum and then move forward with a mutually agreed plan for the future,” he said while clarifying why Pakistan had not yet reopened its own border.

Confusion persists about the reopening of the border crossing on fifth day

Meanwhile, scores of desperate returning Afghans with women and children among them thronged the Torkham border early on Thursday after news about the reopening of the border was circulated on social media.

Their ‘joy’ however remained short-lived when they learnt that Pakistan was yet to allow them to go back. They waited near the border in anticipation of a ‘good news’ soon.

Most of the Afghans aspiring to go back were confronted with multiple problems as they faced food shortages while also taking temporary shelter in warehouses, which were not fit for living. Some of them have taken refuge in British-era railway tunnels with no proper beddings and warm clothes.

A local volunteer organisation of youth arranged food, clothes and medicines for the stranded Afghans as the women and children were more vulnerable to such trying and rough conditions.

The prolonged closure of the busy border between Pakistan and Afghanistan hugely impacted the bilateral trade with hundreds of loaded trucks stranded on its both sides.

Chicken and fish dealers said that they took back their vehicles to Peshawar as they feared rotting the edibles owing to the prolonged delay in the reopening of the border.

Containers loaded with vegetables, fresh fruit, rice, sugar and other items remained parked on roadsides, stretching about 20 kilometres from the border point to Shagai.

Sherin, a frustrated truck driver, said that he had vegetables loaded on his vehicle while taking it to the Afghan capital but was delayed by five days against his date of delivery.

“We incur huge losses both in terms of delay in delivery and the additional charges due to the border closure. We also face problems in arranging three times meals and taking care of the merchandise for fear of being looted by some unscrupulous elements,” he said.

He said that the Afghan importers of vegetables refused to pay the full price due to their decomposed nature while the suppliers were also losing further orders.

Iblan Ali, a customs clearing agent and a coal dealer, told Dawn that traders and transporter on both sides had so far lost more than Rs5 billion owing to the five days of the border closure. He added that such petty issues should be kept aside from obstructing bilateral trade.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

Price bombs
Updated 18 Jun, 2024

Price bombs

It just wants to take the easy route and enjoy the ride for however long it is in power.
Palestine’s plight
Updated 17 Jun, 2024

Palestine’s plight

While the faithful across the world are celebrating with their families, thousands of Palestinian children have either been orphaned, or themselves been killed by the Israeli aggressors.
Profiting off denied visas
17 Jun, 2024

Profiting off denied visas

IT is no secret that visa applications to the UK and Schengen countries come at a high cost. But recent published...
After the deluge
Updated 16 Jun, 2024

After the deluge

There was a lack of mental fortitude in the loss against India while against US, the team lost all control and displayed a lack of cohesion and synergy.
Fugue state
16 Jun, 2024

Fugue state

WITH its founder in jail these days, it seems nearly impossible to figure out what the PTI actually wants. On one...
Sindh budget
16 Jun, 2024

Sindh budget

SINDH’S Rs3.06tr budget for the upcoming financial year is a combination of populist interventions, attempts to...