Pakistan to Reopen Busy Afghan Border Crossing Shut Over Fatal Shooting


ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has decided to reopen a key southwestern border crossing with landlocked Afghanistan for trade and pedestrian movements starting Monday, a week after sealing the facility over the killing of a Pakistani security guard by an Afghan “terrorist.”

The deadly shooting, which also wounded two soldiers, took place November 13 at the Chaman border terminal between the two countries, known as the Friendship Gate.

Abdul Hameed Zehri, a top Chaman district administration official, announced Sunday that Pakistan had agreed to restore the cross-border movement after receiving “firm assurances” from the Taliban government that “the culprit will soon be arrested and severely punished.”

The Taliban have rejected allegations that the assailant was one of their border guards, saying an investigation was swiftly launched to locate and apprehend him.

Security camera footage shared with VOA shortly after the attack shows the gunman among a group of several Taliban guards before he quickly brings out his weapon and shoots at Pakistani soldiers near an entry point before running back to the Afghan side along with other partners. One of them later returns and is seen firing several shots at the security camera, eventually damaging it.

The Chaman terminal and the northwestern Torkham border crossing serve as the main trade and transit routes for Afghanistan for trade between, and through Pakistan. There are several other, smaller, terminals on the nearly 2,600-kilometer border separating the two countries.

The weeklong border closure has stranded hundreds of trucks on both sides carrying Afghan transit trade goods and freight between the two countries.

The Taliban took over Afghanistan 15 months ago and have relied mostly on trade with Pakistan to generate much-needed revenues for their cash-strapped new government through increased bilateral and transit trade.

The Pakistani government has also removed tariffs and eased visa rules in recent months to facilitate trade activities with the conflict-torn country where the United Nations warns millions of Afghans face acute food shortages.

Islamabad has also dramatically increased Afghan coal imports since the Taliban returned to power, tilting the annual trade balance in favor of Kabul for the first time in the history of bilateral trade.

No country has yet recognized the Islamist Taliban due to human rights issues, particularly their treatment of women.

The absence of legitimacy and the international economic sanctions following the Taliban takeover have pushed the Afghan economy to the brink of collapse.

Pakistan maintains it has no option but to help Afghanistan achieve stability to deter an influx of Afghan refugees and a resurgence of cross-border terrorism.

However, Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Buhtto Zardari Friday reiterated that Islamabad would not formally recognize the Taliban government without global consensus, urging the Islamist rulers to fulfill their commitments to the world that they would respect rights of all Afghans, including women, and effectively combat terrorism.__VOANews