Torkham border crossing reopened

Torkham border crossing reopened

ISLAMABAD / LANDI KOTAL: The Torkham border crossing was reopened on Friday after Pakistan and Afghanistan reached an understanding to reopen it.

The decision to reopen the border crossing was made at a meeting between Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and Afghan Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal.

The previously unscheduled meeting was arranged as old irritants in the bilateral relationship — rows over border management and terrorism concerns — resurfaced ahead of the upcoming meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, a four-nation initiative for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

The group is scheduled to meet on May 18-19 in Islamabad and it will be its first meeting since the unsuccessful attempt to start talks between the Afghan government and Taliban in the first week of March.

Amb Zakhilwal told Dawn that during their meeting he and Gen Sharif discussed several issues affecting the ties between their two countries.

The outcome of the meeting was tweeted by Military Spokesman Lt Gen Asim Bajwa.

During the meeting, it was agreed that routine border traffic would be “resumed at Torkham. Both sides showed resolve to continue efforts to fight terrorism, bringing lasting peace in the region”, Gen Bajwa said on his Twitter account.

Decision taken at a meeting between COAS and Afghan ambassador

Pakistan closed the border crossing on Tuesday after Afghan authorities, who do not recognise the Durand Line as an international border, reacted to an attempt to fence the crossing for “controlling unauthorised cross-border movements”.

The move left thousands of people stranded on both sides of the border, be­sides halting the movement of cargo vehicles.

Curiously, Gen Bajwa’s tweets did not mention the fresh efforts the four-nation group would consider making at their upcoming meeting.

Meanwhile, an official aware of the issues discussed during Gen Sharif’s meeting with Amb Zakhilwal said he was hopeful about lessening of bilateral tensions in the coming days and improvement in coordination and cooperation over border management.

Situation on the ground

Over a hundred vehicles carrying goods crossed over into Afghanistan on Friday evening after the Torkham border crossing was reopened after a closure of almost four days.

Officials said the traffic at the border was thin in the beginning, but soon a large number of vehicles loaded with construction material, food items and other goods began crossing the border into and from Afghanistan.

They said that additional troops deployed on Thursday at the border, along with tanks and armoured personnel carriers, after the failure of talks between border officials of the two countries had been withdrawn from the border.

A border guard told Dawn that many Afghan nationals, including women and children, crossed the border on Friday.


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