Can Kabul and Islamabad’s positive intentions silence warmongers?

Published: June 19, 2016
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ISLAMABAD: Warmongers in Afghanistan cheered at the Torkham border skirmishes and this gave the impression that Pakistan and Afghanistan were involved in a full-scale war.

Exchange of fire along the border is nothing new. However, the development attracted much attention as it took place at the busiest crossing point. Although the Torkham border has been closed since the clashes started on June 12, other crossing points are open and all diplomatic channels are intact.

Certain elements in Afghanistan, who are anxious to see the two neighbours at loggerheads, tried to provoke public sentiment on the pretext of growing tension along the Torkham border. However, Pakistan took the initiative and offered talks to Afghanistan on the matter.

Pakistan Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz told parliament on Thursday that he invited Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar to visit Islamabad to find a solution to the problem.

Afghanistan’s response was also positive. It decided to send the country’s deputy foreign minister for talks. Islamabad’s offer for dialogue and Kabul’s acceptance reflected the mood of both countries and their desire to find a peaceful solution.

Afghan Ambassador Dr Omar Zakhilwal, who had been involved in meetings, met with senior Pakistani military officials in Islamabad. He agrees that a “conversation at the leadership level was needed” to break the current tension and to show that “we want to resolve this peacefully”.

As the defence officials of both stood firm on their stance in Thursday’s meeting, political leadership and diplomats needed to step in and pave the way for a negotiated settlement.

Pakistan, Afghanistan agree on ceasefire at Torkham border

The issue seems complicated, but dialogue is the only option to agree to a formula to address each other’s concerns on the Torkham gate.

A Pakistan military spokesman says the gate is 37 metres wide on its side of the border. However, Afghan officials argue that no construction can be done within 100 metres of zero-point. Keeping in view points of the two sides, a question of a few metres should not lock troops in “eyeball-to-eyeball” confrontation.

There is an urgent need to find out a quick solution to the problem as closure at Torkham has halted cross-border trade, economic activity and movement of the people. Hundreds of trucks and containers, loaded with goods, are stuck on both sides.  This situation can further harm trade if the border is not opened.

Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries deputy chief Khan Jan Alokozay said on Thursday that Afghan traders have suffered $10 million in losses due to the clashes. He said Pakistan’s annual exports to Afghanistan are $2.5 million and nearly 60% of the items are exported via Torkham.

He told Radio Azadi in Kabul that most of food items are imported from Pakistan and Afghanistan exports goods, mostly food items, via Karachi. However, this activity ground to a halt after the Torkham’s closure.

He said 1,500 to 3,000 containers move across Torkham border on a daily basis when the situation is normal.

The border closure will not only have an impact on Afghanistan, but also Pakistan’s economic activities as daily exports have come to a standstill.

Besides the economic aspect, the tension has completely halted cross-border movement of people.

Ahmad Afghan Ahmadzai, whose family lives in Pakistan, is stranded in Kabul and cannot return.

“I had come to Kabul for a few days to meet relatives. I have got a Pakistani visa, but cannot cross the border and have been stuck up in Kabul for ten days. My family in Pakistan is worried about the situation,” Ahmadzai told The Express Tribune from Kabul on Friday.

It is not only Ahmadzai, but thousands of others on both sides who cannot cross the border. Torkham is the busiest point. Pakistan Embassy Spokesperson in Kabul, Akhtar Munir, says around 20,000 to 25,000 people cross the border daily.

Leaders in both countries should keep in the humanitarian aspect of closing the border in mind. A large number of Afghans come to Pakistani hospitals for treatment and many have missed routine consultations with doctors.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • Vikram
    Jun 19, 2016 - 5:16PM

    Pakistanis get paid to fight war on terrorism. Stopping war on terrorism means killing a goose that lays golden eggs. Pakistanis even claim they need F-16’s to fight war on terrorism. I am sure Pakistan has sold fighters to ISIS. IT is all about money.Recommend

  • Vikram
    Jun 19, 2016 - 6:08PM

    It is sad Pakistan still wants to treat Afghanistan as its own backyard. Sooner or later Afghans will have to get the strategic depth in Pakistan to turn it into an Islamic Caliphate. Pakistan is trying to make Afghanistan into an Islamic Emirates.Recommend

  • Raheel;
    Jun 20, 2016 - 8:12AM

    Pakistan, in fact had been using and exploiting the war on terror for the establishment of its state and extending its boundaries. The second top beneficiary of post US-9/11 or the war on terror is Pakistan and now it’s entered into its final stage. What is going in Pakistan now is the reaction of the what Pakistan had done decades or during 1980 and thereafter to the innocent people Afghanistan and their generations. Throughout cold and warm war strategy the ultimate aim of Pakistan was and is to establish its state and extend its borders. Pakistan can’t make fool the whole world any more even USA and Kabul…they have understood the double or multiple game of Pakistan and its so called strategic depth. Recommend

  • Someone
    Jun 20, 2016 - 8:55AM

    @Vikram:
    If you had channelised all your energy into solving disputed Kashmir, then even Afghanistan would not be in a mess. There is a strong link between Indian occupied Kashmir and regional peace.. more than meets the eye.Recommend

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