Pakistan has temporarily stopped Nato supply trucks crossing through the Torkham border into Afghanistan over security concerns due to fears of militant attacks, officials said on Thursday.
Gunmen on Tuesday attacked a convoy of Nato supply trucks, killing a driver, in Jamrud near Peshawar, in the first such attack since Pakistan lifted a seven-month blockade of the border.
“Movement of Nato vehicles has been temporarily suspended since Wednesday evening to beef up security,” a paramilitary official told AFP.
“We have launched a search operation in the hills surrounding Jamrud,” the official added.
On Wednesday, officials at the northwestern Torkham crossing had said that traffic was picking up for the first time since the blockade ended, with more than 100 vehicles crossing in two days.
But local administration official Bakhtiar Khan confirmed on Thursday that the supply route had been suspended due to “security reasons”.
“Intelligence officials have informed the authority that attacks may occur on Nato vehicles this week and in light of this a security plan is being chalked out,” Khan told AFP.
He said the Nato route would “reopen very soon”, but that until then trucks carrying supplies for the 130,000-strong US-led mission in Afghanistan had been told not to approach the border.
“We have been told by authorities to wait here as they are building up security after the firing incident,” Amanullah Khan, a Nato truck driver, told AFP in Peshawar.
So far, the closure has only affected the Torkham crossing.
At the southwestern crossing of Chaman, some 17 trucks were awaiting clearance to enter Afghanistan and 20 other trucks were parked in Quetta, clearing agent Ashraf Khan told AFP.
Islamabad closed its land routes to Nato convoys after US air strikes killed 24 soldiers on November 26, but reopened them after Washington said sorry for the deaths.
Before the blockade, around 150 trucks crossed into Afghanistan each day at Torkham – the closest border crossing to Kabul – and officials say the flow will rise to up to 300 a day.
No government response
Despite a lapse of 14 days and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s (K-P) request to the federal government to convene a meeting of all stakeholders including forces of the province concerned to discuss a strategy for the smooth supply of the Nato containers, the federal government has failed to respond.
The K-P government has sent yet another letter reminding the federal government to convene the meeting — warning that in case of inaction, they would not be responsible for any “untoward situation”.
“It is requested that the required meeting may kindly be convened immediately taking onboard all stakeholders. Failing which, the provincial government will not be responsible for any untoward incident in this regard,” said a statement issued by K-P’s home and tribal affairs department on Thursday.
The K-P government on July 12 had requested the federal government to convene a meeting of the K-P, Sindh and Punjab home departments, provincial forces, political administration, police and other stakeholders including the national logistics cell.
WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY UMER FAROOQ FROM PESHAWAR)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2012.