Torkham crossing point with Pakistan reopens

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KABUL (SW) – Officials in Nangarhar have confirmed the reopening of the Torkham crossing point with Pakistan.

Nangarhar Department of Information and Culture has said that this crossing was opened at around 9:00 am on Thursday by the authorities of Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to the department all passengers and commercial convoys can travel through this crossing now.

A day earlier, Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif led a delegation to meet Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan deputy prime minister for economic affairs, in Kabul as tensions have increased between the two countries in recent months.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed Asif was in Kabul, saying only that he was there to discuss security-related matters, including counter-terrorism measures. Two Pakistani security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss border issues, told The Associated Press that Torkham’s closure was top of the agenda.

In Kabul, a statement issued by Baradar’s office about Asif’s visit said the two sides discussed the current situation at the crossing.

According to the statement, Baradar told the Pakistani delegation that “necessary facilities should be provided for all passengers” at Torkham and also at Spin Boldak, another trade route located to the south, across from Chaman in Pakistan’s restive southwestern Baluchistan province.

Baradar was also quoted as saying “special facilities” should be provided for the transportation of patients needing emergency medical care.

“The Pakistani side assured the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan that it would resolve solving the mentioned issues and … work quickly on this matter,” the statement said. Baradar also stressed it was important “to separate commercial and economic issues from political and security issues so that it does not become prey to politics.”

The Islamic Emirate security forces on Sunday closed the Torkham border crossing with Pakistan and on Monday traded fire with Pakistani border guards. The exchange wounded a Pakistani soldier. The border crossing has since remained shut, hampering trade on both sides of the troubled boundary.

The government in Kabul said Torkham was closed because of Pakistan’s alleged refusal to allow Afghan patients and their caretakers to enter Pakistan for medical care without travel documents.

For Pakistan, the crossing is a vital commercial artery and a trade route to Central Asian countries. But Islamabad has also accused the Afghan Taliban of providing sanctuary for Pakistani militants whose cross-border attacks into Pakistan have led to a spike in violence in the region.

Since Sunday’s closure of Torkham, more than 6,000 trucks with goods, including vegetables, fruit and other perishable food items, have been stuck on the Pakistani side of the border.