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Torkham border closed over ‘barrier row’

January 10, 2013

LANDI KOTAL, Jan 9: The Afghan officials on Wednesday closed the border crossing for some time, suspending all types of vehicular traffic on both sides of the border, amid conflicting reports about a row over setting up of a barrier at Torkham.

Pakistani officials, however, insisted that the border was temporarily closed owing to a visit of a high level Afghan delegation to the border area of its country. They said that the border guards, mostly Khyber Rifles personnel, wanted to set up a barrier at the crossing point to check movement of unauthorised Afghans at the border.

Independent sources told Dawn that border guards of both the countries took positions at their respective bunkers after the Afghan officials got a wind of their Pakistani counterparts’ plan of setting up the steel barrier.

They said that Pakistani officials had almost hired the services of labourers to set up the iron barrier at the border for Rs46,500. The plan was set aside at the last moment after a stern reaction by the Afghan government.

A local administrative official told Dawn that the matter of setting up of a barrier was referred to higher authorities of both the countries and it would be resolved with a consensus in the near future.

The old gate at the border was removed by National Highway Authority in 2005 when it started construction of 72 kilometres metalled road from Torkham to Jalalabad.

Later, when NHA wanted to reconstruct the gate, the Afghan government objected to it on the grounds that they were not consulted by Pakistan government at the time of its removal. The border crossing is without a gate since then.