Afghan-Pakistan Torkham border crossing reopens

Published September 15, 2023
Trucks loaded with supplies are seen to cross main Afghanistan-Pakistan land border crossing, in Torkham, Pakistan September 15, 2023. — Reuters
Trucks loaded with supplies are seen to cross main Afghanistan-Pakistan land border crossing, in Torkham, Pakistan September 15, 2023. — Reuters

The Torkham border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan has re-opened after a closure of nine days following a shooting between guards on both sides, Khyber Deputy Commissioner Abdul Nasir Khan said on Friday.

Thousands of travellers and hundreds of trucks laden with goods were stranded last week by the closure of the Torkham border crossing, at the western end of the fabled Khyber Pass.

“It’s opened for pedestrian and vehicular traffic,” Khan told Reuters.

A security official in Torkham said talks between the two sides had resolved the issue that sparked the clashes.

Spokespersons for Pakistan’s foreign ministry and authorities in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar also confirmed the re-opening.

The road is a key lifeline for landlocked Afghanistan, linking the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar to Jalalabad, the main city in Nangarhar, and the route onwards to the capital, Kabul.

“The border closure was causing huge losses to traders and common people of the two neighbouring countries,” said Ziaul Haq Sarhadi, director of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Among dozens of families braving the heat and humidity in a bid to return home was an Afghan refugee, Mohammad Ismail, who had spent a week in a makeshift shelter in Peshawar with his wife and four children, waiting for the border to open.

Muhammad Ismail, 40, sits with his family while they are waiting to cross main Afghanistan-Pakistan land border crossing, in Torkham, Pakistan September 15, 2023. — Reuters
Muhammad Ismail, 40, sits with his family while they are waiting to cross main Afghanistan-Pakistan land border crossing, in Torkham, Pakistan September 15, 2023. — Reuters

“They’re not letting us go back,” Ismail told a Reuters photographer, saying that officials were not acknowledging his legal documents, although he had pleaded with them to let the family cross over and seek medical assistance.

“All my children have fallen sick,” he added.

The refugee family has been in Pakistan for the last three years.

Dozens more families in the queue also complained of very slow processing of documents. Lining the route nearby were hundreds of vehicles carrying perishable fruits, vegetables and other items.

Earlier, official sources privy to the week-long deliberations between Islamabad and Kabul told Dawn that the foreign ministry of the Afghan interim government had given an assurance to Pakistani authorities that “the Afghan territory shall not be employed for hostile actions against Pakistan”, and thus there was a possibility that the Torkham border would be re-opened today.

“The resolution to reopen the border transpired during a high-level meeting involving Pakistan’s chief of mission and senior Afghan officials,” the sources said.

Border security guards of both countries resorted to heavy firing at each other’s positions on September 6 when Afghan authorities started building a security post close to Pakistan’s side of the border.

An FC personnel and a Customs clearing agent on the Pakistan side of the border were injured during the two-hour-long exchange of fire in which both sides used light and heavy weapons.

Pakistani officials had insisted that the establishment of a new security post near the border crossing was totally uncalled for and it was also a violation of the understanding reached between the two countries about any such development which was to be mutually discussed and agreed.

The Afghan foreign office in one of its statements had insisted that they were only renovating an old post on their own territory and which was of no harm to the Pakistani side.

The week-long closure of the border caused trading and transport community on both sides of the border huge financial losses while it also rendered hundreds of poor labourers and daily-wage earners jobless.

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