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Temporary reopening of two Afghan border crossings announced

By Baqir Sajjad Syed 2017-03-07
ISLAMABAD:Pakistanannounced on Monday temporary reopening of two border crossings with Afghanistan for two days to f acilitate return of people stranded in each other`s country due to border closure.

`The government of Pakistan has decided to open the border crossings at Torkham and Chaman on 7th and 8th March 2017,` the Foreign Office said, adding that the decision was conveyed by Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz to Afghan Ambassador Dr Omar Zakhilwal.

There are some 200 crossings on the 2,600-kilometre-long porous border between the two countries, nine of which are frequently used by people for cross-border movement.

Torkham and Chaman are, however, the most commonly used cross-ing points.

The reopening decision came on a day when six Pakistani troops were killed in a cross-border raid by Jamaatul Ahrar militants, a splinter group of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), from their sanctuaries on the Afghan side of the border.

Tabban terrorists` hideouts on the Afghan soil were a major reason behind Pakistan Army`s decision to close the crossings immediately after the Sehwan shrine attack last month.

Kabul lowered its representation at the Economic Cooperation Organisation summit hosted by Islamabad last week to protest against the border closure byPakistan.

Afghan Ambassador Zakhilwal had in a statement on Saturday said that he had told Mr Aziz that the Afghan government would arrange chartered flights for return of its stranded nationals if border crossings were notopened in two days.

`This, however, would reflect a very poor picture,` he had then cautioned.

The ambassador said that some 25,000 Afghans were stranded in Pakistan due to the sudden closure of the crossing points. Most of them were visiting Pakistan for medical treatment or meeting their relatives living asrefugeesinPakistan.

The temporary reopening of the border would benefit people visiting each other`s country on valid travel documents and intending to return home.

Mr Zakhilwal, in a statement after the announcement, said that there had been no positive outcome so f ar of the negotiations between the two countries for the reopening of border crossings. However, the Pakistan government had agreed to allow return of people with valid documents for two days, he added.