Afghanistan: Torkham border shut as talks remain inconclusive


PESHAWAR/ ISLAMABAD: The Torkham border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan remained shut on the fourth consecutive day on Tuesday, as a flag meeting between the officials from both sides regarding the visa restrictions for the drivers of the cargo vehicles remained inconclusive.

Pakistan has made visa mandatory for the drivers of commercial vehicles entering the country from Afghanistan. The measure aimed at improving security, preventing smuggling and promoting legal bilateral trade.

Because of the closure, hundreds of cargo vehicles were stuck on both sides of the border. At the same time, Pakistan was also losing an average of Rs50 million per day in revenues. For the opening of the border crossing, Pakistani and Afghan officials held a flag meeting, but their talks remained inconclusive.

Security officials said that the federal government imposed the visa requirement for drivers of Afghan cargo vehicles on November 1, 2023. The Afghan government was given two-and-a-half months of time to implement the policy.

However, they added, the Afghan authorities did not show any seriousness to the measure as drivers coming from the other side had not the kept their travel documents. The government implemented the visa policy four days ago and stopped the drivers without visas from entering the country.

Qari Nazeem Gul and Kharij Khan who import and export fresh fruits and vegetables, said that due to the closure of the border crossing, their perishable commodities on more than 100 vehicles had been lost, incurring losses to the tune of tens of millions of rupees.

A Customs official, while speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the Pakistan-Afghan bilateral trade generated Rs50 million revenues per day on average. Torkham Transport Union President Haji Azimullah said that a cargo vehicle cost more than Rs15 million.

Azimullah said that the vehicles were taken by the transporters on instalments, adding that the border closure for four days not only affected the tyres and engines of the vehicles, but also dented the earning of the labour, who normally did not get paid during that period.

A flag meeting was held between Pakistan and Afghan security officials on the border issues at the Torkham Frontier Corps (FC) conference hall. During the meeting, the Pakistani forces stressed that they could not back down from the federal government decision of not allowing Afghan drivers without visa.

The Pakistan security officials added that the Afghan authorities were not serious in providing the data of their drivers and did not force their drivers to produce travel documents. They stressed that the measures were necessary to prevent smuggling and promote bilateral legal trade.

In response, the Afghan authorities maintained that obtaining Pakistani visa was impossible for Afghan drivers. After the announcement of the new measures, Pakistan had taken special measures for two-way traffic at the Torkham