QUETTA: Life in the border town of Chaman has been at a virtual standstill for almost two weeks due to protests against the new border crossing regulations and action of security forces.

Public and private banks and offices of passport, deputy commissioner, and Customs have been closed since earlier this month when protesters clashed with security forces.

The protesters, including traders, political leaders and daily wage workers, have also blocked the Quetta-Chaman national highway, connecting Pakistan with Afghanistan. Hundreds of trucks and other vehicles loaded with goods of Afghan transit trade and other items have been stranded on both sides of the border waiting for the reopening of the highway in Chaman.

“Since May 4, all trade activities have been suspended in Chaman, and no export and import between Pakistan and Afghanistan through the Chaman border has taken place due to the strike and protest of the all parties traders alliance,” Muhammad Imran Kakar, the Chaman Chamber of Commerce and Industry president told Dawn over the telephone on Monday.

Afghan transit trade suspended due to closure of highway

He claimed that fresh protests started after two people were killed in a clash with the security forces in Chaman.

Protests have been ongoing in Chaman since October 2023 when the government imposed a ban on crossing the Pakistan-Afghanistan border without valid travel documents from both sides and introduced the new ‘one document regime’.

Mr Kakar claimed that thousands of daily wage labourers, working on the border and involved in small trade on both sides became jobless due to the new regulations.

The negotiations between protestors and the Balochistan government, which were held two weeks back, also failed to result in a breakthrough.

The government delegation, headed by Balochistan Assembly Speaker Abdul Khaliq Achakzai and Home Minister Ziaullah Langove failed to convince the leaders of all parties’ traders alliance and other stakeholders to end their protest.

The protestors’ main demand was the withdrawal of the new regulation and resumption of the old system which allowed travel on Pakistani National Identity Card and Afghan ID card, called Teskera.

Mr Kakar said the protesters were told that the issue would be resolved during Chief Minister Sarfraz Bugti’s visit to Chaman. “But despite the passage of almost two weeks, he has not visited Chaman.”

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2024

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