Torkham border crossing reopens after 10-day closure

Pakistani official says clearance of trucks is in process and Afghan citizens are entering Afghanistan

Qazi Fazlullah
A general view of the border post in Torkham, Pakistan, December 3, 2019. Picture taken December 3, 2019. — AFP
A general view of the border post in Torkham, Pakistan, December 3, 2019. Picture taken December 3, 2019. — AFP

  • Pedestrian movement begins as traffic on border resumes.
  • Clearance of trucks is in process, govt official says.
  • He adds Afghans also begin entering Afghanistan.

The Torkham border between Pakistan and Afghanistan Friday reopened for all kinds of traffic after 10 days of closure due to clashes between border forces.  

Pedestrian movement has begun following the resumption of traffic at the border with hundreds of travellers flocking to its immigration section for entry into Afghanistan.

"The clearance of trucks is in process and Afghan citizens are entering Afghanistan after clearance and passing immigration processes," Irshad Khan Mohmamd, assistant commissioner of Khyber district in Pakistan, told AFP.

The Torkham border between Pakistan and Afghanistan was closed on September 6 following a clash between the security forces of the two countries, which left a Frontier Corps soldier injured.

The dispute arose over the "illegal construction" of a bunker by the interim Afghanistan government on the Pakistani side of the border.

The FO, on September 11, said Islamabad cannot accept the construction of any structures by the interim Afghan government inside its territory since these violate its sovereignty.

The crossing is the busiest for trade and people between the two nations, which share a porous 2,600-kilometre (1,600-mile) frontier that cuts through rugged mountains and valleys.

Traders on both sides complained that tons of perishable goods were lost because of the border closure, while Afghan travellers missed vital hospital appointments or flights out of Pakistan.

A day earlier, a customs official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Geo News that the border was likely to reopen today (Friday).

“The Torkham border will be opened for trade from tomorrow,” the official had said, adding that import, and export including the passageway of transit vehicles will be restored from Friday onwards.

The decision came after Acting Afghanistan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi met the Head of the Pakistan Mission in Kabul, Ubaid Ur Rehman Nizamani.

In the meeting, the Afghan authorities assured Pakistan that Afghan soil would not be used against Pakistan. Sources, privy to the decision, said the decision to reopen the border came after this meeting.

Pakistani authorities had requested the Afghan side to halt the construction, citing it as a violation of international law, an official performing duty at the Torkham border had told The News on the condition of anonymity.

However, the Afghan authorities did not heed this request. Consequently, the border was closed due to the escalating tensions stemming from this construction dispute.

'Mortar shells fired'

Speaking about the attack ahead of the border's closure, the on-duty official at the border said several mortar shells were fired from the Afghan side, which landed at the offices of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Customs and other official workplaces.

The official added that a mortar shell also hit a mosque on the Pakistani side of the border while another landed in the Bacha Mena border village. However, these did not cause any casualties.

He added gunfire started at 2pm and continued for around three hours resulting in FC soldier Maqsood, sustaining bullet injuries and was taken to a hospital.

In the midst of this border dispute, a significant number of individuals found themselves stranded on both sides of the border. Among them were travellers, patients, women, and children, as well as trucks, some of which were loaded with goods.

The situation led to the closure of hundreds of government and private offices as a precautionary safety measure.

— Additional input by AFP