Photo: Radio Pakistan

Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Remains Closed for Four Consecutive Days

The Torkham border crossing, a crucial gateway for trade and transit between Afghanistan and Pakistan, has remained closed for four consecutive days due to an ongoing disagreement regarding the documentation requirements for commercial truck drivers.

The border, situated between Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Afghanistan’s Nangarhar provinces, closed on Friday evening, 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.

The blame game continues, as both sides accuse each other of the recent closure of the border. The Taliban official at the Torkham border, Abdul Jabbar Hekmat told reporters on Friday that “Torkham is closed to commercial truck drivers without visas from Pakistani authorities.” However, according to Pakistani officials, the closure of the border was due to the Taliban’s requirement that truck drivers must have a valid passport.

“Following our updated policy, Afghan officials were informed last night that cargo drivers would only be allowed to enter our side if they possess a passport,” a Pakistani customs official told reporters on Monday. The Pakistani official emphasized that this regulation had been agreed upon in previous meetings between the Taliban and Pakistani authorities on border rules. “However, instead of adhering to the previously agreed-upon regulations, the Afghan border officials chose to close down border trade.”

Jan Khan Alakozai, the co-chairman of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry told the media that the closure of the border not only caused financial losses for traders in both countries but has also resulted in an increase in market prices, as most of the cargo consists of food items that will perish if the border remain closed.

A Pakistan customs official said on Monday some 450 trucks were stranded on the Pakistani side of the Torkham border, with 600 more forced to stop along the road to the border.

The Torkham border experienced multiple closures last year, occasionally leading to heightened tensions and armed clashes between border guards along the frontier. In September, the border was shut for nine days due to clashes between Pakistani security forces and the Taliban fighters.

Pakistan is concerned about the presence of a militant group, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has close ties with the regime in Kabul and has carried out several deadly attacks against Pakistani security forces and civilians in recent years. Pakistan accuses the Taliban of failing to uphold their commitment to the Doha agreement, which pledged to prevent any terrorist group from using Afghanistan to launch attacks on other countries. The claim, which the Taliban has repeatedly denied in the past.

This comes just days after one of Pakistan’s senior politicians and the leader of Jamiate Ulema Islam, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, known for supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan, visited Kabul in an attempt to revive ties between the two neighbors. While visiting Afghanistan, he reportedly met with the Taliban supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, in Kandahar as well as TTP leaders, Noor Wali Mehsud and Hafiz Gul Bahadur.

The recent tension is exacerbated by Pakistan’s ongoing expulsion of thousands of undocumented refugees, with reports suggesting that over half a million Afghan refugees without valid documentation have been deported since the crackdown started. Pakistan has long hosted about 1.7 million undocumented Afghan refugees, most of whom fled during the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation. Over half a million people fled Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover of power in August 2021.