The Torkham border crossing, a main transit point between Pakistan and Afghanistan, reopened for vehicular movement and pedestrians on Friday, eight days after its closure following clashes between the border forces of both countries, Dawn reported.
Pakistani and Afghan border forces exchanged fire at the Torkham border earlier this month, causing the main point of transit for travellers and goods between the countries to close. Two people were injured in the attack.
Since then, hundreds of trucks with goods were stranded on both sides of the border. A three-day relaxation was given to Afghans who did not have proper travel documents but had the Afghan national ID, said immigration officials.
After the reopening, 10,000 Afghan nationals crossed the border from both sides till Friday evening, while some Pakistanis also returned to their home side. At least 80 vehicles carrying export goods from Pakistan crossed into Afghanistan.
Authorities in Islamabad decided to reopen the border only after an assurance from the Afghan foreign territory that its territory would not be used as staging grounds for any terrorist attack on Pakistan, as per Dawn’s sources. This comes after a spade of attacks by the Pakistani Taliban on Islamabad.
Why did Pakistani and Afghan border forces clash?
The exchange of fire emerged after Afghan authorities reportedly started building a checkpoint on Pakistan’s side in a prohibited area that was close to the main border. Pakistan officials have opposed the building of a security checkpoint, saying it violates agreements between both countries.
On the other hand, the Afghan Taliban government claimed that Pakistani forces attacked them when they wanted to reactivate their old outpost with an excavator. The firefight has resulted in casualties, but the exact figures are not yet known.
Disputes linked to the 2,600 km (1,615 miles) border have been a bone of contention between the neighbours for decades. The crossing at Torkham is a essential trading waypoint, where Afghanistan exports truckloads of coal and receives food and other supplies from Pakistan.
According to Asif Ali Khan Durrani, the special representative for Afghanistan, said that Pakistan’s trade volume with Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries has risen from $55 million to $300 million.
Pakistan and Afghanistan authorities spar
Last week, the Afghan Taliban criticised the closure of the Torkham border crossing and mentioned that the decision would result in heavy losses for business. It further said that Pakistan’s actions contradict the notion of ‘good neighbourliness’.
Reacting to the statement, Pakistan accused Afghanistan of ‘unprovoked and indiscriminate firing; across the border that led to the closure of a key Torkham crossing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and said that such actions embolden the terrorist elements already sheltered in Afghan territory.
“On the 6th of September, instead of a peaceful resolution, Afghan troops resorted to indiscriminate firing, targeting Pakistan military posts, damaging the infrastructure at the Torkham Border Terminal, and putting the lives of both Pakistani and Afghan civilians at risk, when they were stopped from erecting such unlawful structures,” said Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mumtaz Baloch.