ISLAMABAD/ LANDIKOTAL: After remaining sealed for four consecutive days, the Pakistan-Afghanistan border at Khyber Agency’s Torkham area was opened on Friday in the wake of a meeting between army chief General Raheel Sharif and Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan Dr Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal.
After reopening, hundreds of stranded people – including drivers and transporters – on both sides of the border rushed towards the entry point between the two countries, creating a bottleneck.
Army chief, Afghan envoy agree to reopen Torkham border crossing
Due to a heavy rush, the border security forces and civil administration officials of both countries were hard pressed to cope with the flow. An official said routine activities and movement on the entry point could be resumed from Saturday morning.
Pakistani authorities closed the border on Tuesday after Afghan border forces prevented fencing along the border to stop illegal cross-border movements. Thousands of people and vehicles were stuck up on both sides of the border.
On Thursday, Afghan defence and interior ministry officials held talks with a Pakistani delegation to resolve the Torkham problem but the talks had ended inconclusively. However, the issue was resolved when the Afghan envoy met General Raheel at the General Headquarters.
“During the meeting, it was agreed that routine border traffic at Torkham would be resumed,” said the Inter- Services Public Relations (ISPR) chief Lt Gen Asim Bajwa in a series of tweets on his Twitter account.
Bajwa said issues related to bilateral relations with particular reference to border management were discussed in the meeting. “Both sides showed resolve to continue efforts to fight terrorism and bring lasting peace in the region,” he added.
Pakistan-Afghanistan border shut for third day
In a statement sent to The Express Tribune, Zakhilwal said he had detailed discussions with General Raheel about “serious problems in relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan and its reasons.”
Zakhilwal said he stressed that it should be ensured that the practice of the border closure should not be repeated. “I thank the positive approach of the army chief,” he added.
Earlier, the Afghan ambassador in a series of interviews lashed out at Pakistan’s decision to close the border. Zakhilwal told Tolo TV that Pakistan “uses Afghan refugees as a political tool against the Afghan government.”
“My messages for Pakistani officials last night [Thursday night] were very serious, clear and powerful. I told them that the closure of the Torkham gate – for any reason – will harm the bilateral ties between the two countries; therefore, the gate should be reopened without any condition,” he had said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2016.