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Pashtun Leader Warns of Border Wire Cutting if Demands Ignored by Islamabad

CHAMAN, PAKISTAN —The Pashtun protests against the Pakistani government’s decision to require visas for border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan have intensified in recent weeks.  Mahmood Khan Achakzai, the leader of Awami National Party in Pakistan, told protesters at the Chaman border that if their demands are not accepted, they will cut the barbed wire at the border crossing, ignoring the government policy.

Achakzai spoke among tens of thousands of protesters today, February 21, saying that the new government of Pakistan must accept their demands.

The protests started when the Pakistani government issued a new regime of visa requirements for crossing the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Launched by unions and political parties, the demonstrators demand a return to the previous arrangement where national identity cards sufficed for border crossings.

The protests, initiated on October 21, 2023, aim to oppose the introduction of visas. On December 9, 2023, protest leaders announced plans to expand demonstrations to additional locations unless their demands were met.

The border areas in both countries are predominantly inhabited by Pashtuns, who for decades predating Pakistan’s creation in 1947 have crossed the Durand line without travel documents.     

Previously, prominent Pashtun leaders including the leader of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) Manzoor Pashteen had also shown up in the gathering and delivered speeches to the crowd, criticizing the government’s decision.

According to the leader of Awami National Party, after the formation of the government, he wants to meet with officials to discuss the issue.

In his speech, Achakzai highlighted a historical understanding reached during a meeting between a Pakistani delegation and Kabul authorities, allowing residents on both sides of the Durand Line to cross with their CNICs and ‘Tazkira (Afghanistan National Identification Card).’ He argued that the imposition of a passport and visa regime was impractical due to tribal lands straddling both countries.

Achakzai declared that the Chaman protest would persist and expand until their demands were met, emphasizing the need for peaceful advocacy and equal treatment of Afghan refugees.

Earlier, protesters had warned that if their demands were not met, they would block the Chaman border crossing for an unspecified period.