Pakistan effectively shuts the key crossing into Afghanistan to truck drivers

Pakistan effectively shuts the key crossing into Afghanistan to truck drivers © Provided by The Canadian Press

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan effectively closed a key northwestern border crossing with Afghanistan to truck drivers on Saturday, Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban said.

Noor Mohammad Hanif, director of Information and Culture department in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province said that officials at the Torkham began asking for passports and visas from Afghan drivers.

Truckers have for years been able to pass the border without documents so they generally do not have them.

Hanif said that, in response, Afghanistan is now asking Pakistani drivers for passports and visas.

In a separate statement, the Nangarhar governor’s office said that officials from both sides are in talks to solve the problem, and a “decision will be made soon,” it added.

The Torkham border crossing has been closed a number of times in recent months, including in September when it was shut for nine days due to clashes between border forces.

On Saturday, dozens of trucks carrying perishable items, including vegetables and fruits, waited on each side of the border for the reopening of the crossing, which is a vital commercial artery and a trade route to Central Asian countries for Pakistan.

Pakistan is concerned about the presence in Afghanistan of the Pakistani Taliban, which is a close ally of the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan has said many Pakistani Taliban leaders and fighters have found sanctuary in Afghanistan and have been emboldened to carry out more attacks on security forces in Pakistan.

The Afghan Taliban government insists it does not allow the Pakistani Taliban to use its soil to launch attacks in Pakistan.

This comes just days after one of Pakistan’s most senior politicians, Fazlur Rehman, whose Jamiat Ulema Islam party is known for backing the Afghan Taliban, visited Kabul in an attempt to reduce lingering tensions between the two countries.

Rehman was the first senior Pakistani politician to visit Kabul since the Taliban seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021 as U.S. and NATO troops withdrew from the country after 20 years of war.

Tensions also exist around Pakistan’s ongoing expulsion of Afghans.

Pakistan has deported more than half a million Afghans without valid papers in recent months. Pakistan has long hosted about 1.7 million Afghans, most of whom fled during the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation. More than half a million fled Afghanistan when the Taliban seized power.

Source: Rahim Faiez, The Associated Press