Pakistan-Afghanistan border remains closed

Torkham border crossing between 2 neighbors remains closed for almost a week

The ongoing closure of the Torkham crossing has so far caused a loss of around $1 million since last week

Amir Latif Arain
KARACHI, Sindh Pakistan

Closure of a key border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan have taken a toll on already depreciating trade between the two neighbors, causing a loss of $1 million over the past six days.

The ongoing closure of the Torkham crossing, according to Ijaz Khan Afridi, president of Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industries, a trade body to represent businessmen from Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, has so far caused a loss of “lump sum” $1 million since last week.

The figure was endorsed by Khanjan Alkozi, president of Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Islamabad shut the Torkham border, one of the two main crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan, last week for travelers and traffic following skirmishes between border security forces of the two countries.

The latest standoff erupted after Taliban guards began constructing a new security post near the Torkham border, which Pakistan considers violation of mutual agreements.

“Trade activities have been badly affected by these closures, frequently causing heavy losses to the traders from both sides,” Afridi told Anadolu.

The trade volume between landlocked Afghanistan and its southern neighbor have been mostly affected by terrorist attacks in Pakistan that Islamabad blames on Afghanistan-based militants, leading to the closure of border crossings.

Pakistan and Afghanistan share 18 crossing points, the busiest of which are the Torkham and Chaman

According to the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce, trade between the two countries amounted to $2.5 billion in 2010 but dropped to $1.6 billion before settling at slightly over $1.8 billion in 2022-23.

Trade between the neighbors is conducted under the Afghanistan-Pakistan transit trade agreement, a bilateral deal signed in 2010.

The current trade volume, according to the chambers of commerce, is hugely weighted towards Pakistan, which is said to have an 80% share. However, Afridi said the current percentage is 50-50 due to a de facto ban on imports, which has taken a hard hit at Pakistani industries in recent months.

Traders fear that perishable food items would start decomposing if movement across the border did not resume soon.

Pakistan and Afghanistan share 18 crossing points, the busiest of which are the Torkham and Chaman, which connect Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province with Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province.

Thousands of people, mainly Afghans, use the two crossings daily to seek medical treatment and earn a livelihood in Pakistan’s border areas.

No headway in talks

Diplomatic and military talks between Pakistan and Afghanistan have failed to bear result as the key trade and travel crossing between the two neighbors remained shut on the sixth consecutive day on Monday.

The two sides continue to accuse each other of violating the “prior commitments” as a flag meeting between the two border forces remained inconclusive, dashing hopes of thousands of stranded people, including Afghan patients on both sides of the border.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry says that Islamabad cannot accept the construction of any structures by Afghanistan inside its territory

Footage aired on Pakistani local broadcaster Geo News showed long queues of trucks loaded with trade goods, including perishable items like fruits, on either side of the border, with many truckers lying under the vehicles to take refuge from hot weather.

In a statement on Monday, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry repeated the accusation, saying that Islamabad cannot accept the construction of any structures by Afghanistan inside its territory “since these violate its sovereignty.”

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mumtaz Zehra Baloch alleged that instead of a “peaceful resolution, Afghan troops resorted to indiscriminate firing, targeting Pakistan military posts, damaging the infrastructure at the Torkham Border Terminal, and putting the lives of both Pakistani and Afghan civilians at risk, when they were stopped from erecting such unlawful structures.”

The “unprovoked” firing by Afghan border security forces, she went on to charge, “invariably emboldens the terrorist elements.​​​​​​​”

She urged Kabul to “respect the territorial integrity of Pakistan and ensure that the Afghan territory is not used as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against Pakistan.”

– Afghanistan denies

The Taliban, however, rejected the allegations, saying that the outpost was being built on the Afghan side of the nearly 2,600 kilometers (1,616 miles) boundary separating the two countries.

Kabul accused Islamabad of violating the mutual understandings and previous commitments.

It said the border closure is detrimental to regional and bilateral trade and affecting the trade and causing financial losses to both sides.

Pakistan has seen an uptick in terrorist attacks since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in 2021.

Islamabad accuses Kabul of harboring militants, a charge the latter denies.

Related report: Pakistan-Afghanistan border closed


Aamir Latif is a senior journalist based in Karachi. He represents Anadolu, a Turkish news agency.
Courtesy: Anadolu Agency (Posted on September 11.09.2023)



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