Photo: Radio Pakistan

Key Border Reopening Resumes Trade Between Pakistan and Afghanistan  

Trade between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia resumed on Tuesday, January 23, following the reopening of the Torkham border crossing, which had been shut for more than 10 days because Afghan truck drivers did not have Pakistani visas.

According to Radio Pakistan, the decision was made following a meeting between the Taliban consul general and Pakistani authorities in Peshawar. Reportedly, the Taliban delegation requested the reopening of the border, marking the second such request in a matter of days. Pakistan has acceded to the Taliban’s request and has extended a relaxation for drivers until the end of March this year.

“Afghan drivers of commercial vehicles have been given visa and passport relaxation till 31st March. No cargo vehicle will be allowed entry into Pakistan without traveling documents from the 1st of April,” Radio Pakistan stated.

The key border, situated between Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Afghanistan’s Nangarhar provinces, closed on January 13, resulting in hundreds of trucks carrying perishable items, including vegetables and fruits, waiting on both sides of the border for the reopening of the busiest crossing point between the two countries.

For years, drivers of commercial trucks, mostly tribesmen from the border areas between the two countries, entered Pakistan by only presenting an ID document. In September 2023, however, Pakistan announced that beginning in November, no one would be allowed to cross the border without a valid visa, which included tradesmen and truck drivers

In protest, Pashtun tradesmen, civil society, and political activists from both sides of the border staged a sit-in in Chaman city near Kandahar province. However, the government in Islamabad was not moved.

According to reports by Pakistani media, the border closure policy became effective on November 1, 2023, as was said beforehand. However, the Taliban in Afghanistan was provided with a two-and-a-half-month timeframe to make adjustments.  According to the Express Tribune, a Pakistani newspaper, “the Afghan authorities did not show any seriousness towards the measure as drivers coming from the other side did not carry their travel documents.”

Earlier, the head of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI), Junaid Islamil Mekda, said that not only is the Torkham border closed, but four other crossing points including Chaman between Pakistan’s Balochistan and Afghanistan’s Kandahar provinces are also currently shut for trucks. 

The border closure halted trade between Pakistan and Central Asian countries since Afghanistan is the connecting point between South and Central Asia.  

The Torkham border crossing experienced multiple closures in the past year, including a nine-day shutdown in September 2023 due to clashes between border guards. These closures resulted in substantial financial losses for traders on both sides of the border.