LANDI KOTAL: Business at the Torkham border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan is back to normal. It took four days, tense exchanges, top-level negotiations and fencing of the border between the two neighbours to reopen this key route frequented by thousands of travellers – mostly Afghan nationals – every day.
A long queue of trucks and trailers loaded with goods, private cars and SUVs started thinning out after a long, tiring and anxious wait at the border crossing Saturday morning. All this became possible after Afghan Ambassador Dr Omar Zakhiwal met army chief General Raheel Sharif in Rawalpindi on Friday.
Army chief, Afghan envoy agree to reopen Torkham border crossing
Motorists, truckers and other travellers stranded on both sides of the Durand Line heaved a sigh of relief. They flocked to the offices of immigration, transport and customs departments for necessary paperwork. Unlike the recent past, Pakistani authorities were more cooperative as they processed paperwork quickly to facilitate the travellers, said travellers at the border.
Afghan nationals benefitted the most from the reopening of the border crossing. A large number of them were bringing their patients to private clinics and hospitals in Peshawar for treatment.
Amid the hustle and bustle, Pakistani law enforcement agencies and civil administration officials completed the fencing of the Pak-Afghan border which had been suspended on May 10 after Afghan security forces had blocked the move. However on Saturday, it took Pakistani officials only hours to complete the suspended process.
Torkham border reopens after four days
IGFC Maj Gen Shaheen Mazhar visited the border to oversee the fencing process along the rugged Shamshad mountain. Assistant Political Agent Rahim Ullah Mahsud, Commandant Khyber Rifles Col Tariq Hafeez and Political Tehsildar Ghuncha Gul accompanied him.
Maj Gen Mazhar expressed satisfaction at the completion of fencing. He also gave out cash prizes to Khyber Rifles and Khasadar Force personnel in recognition of their contribution to the process.
Afghanistan has long opposed the fencing of its border with Pakistan. Troops on both sides of the 2,600-kilometre-long porous border routinely exchange harsh words. However, the Afghan authorities gave in after Pakistani forces closed the Torkham border crossing as goods worth millions of rupees loaded on trucks and trailers were rotting on the Pakistani side of the border.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2016.
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