Pakistan and Afghanistan opened major trade routes today, officials from both sides said, as a dispute over travel documents as Islamabad undermined border movement.
The closure of the Torkham border since January 12 came after Islamabad introduced stricter controls requiring drivers on both sides to have visas and passports – documents most Afghans do not have. Relations between the two countries have worsened in recent months, with Islamabad accusing the Taliban government of failing to do so. to expel insurgents planning attacks on Pakistan from their soil. Kabul has always denied these allegations.
A Pakistani border official, who asked not to be named, told AFP that the opening would resume after talks between Islamabad and Kabul, allowing the passage of hundreds of waiting trucks. “It was agreed during the talks that until March 31, Pakistani and Afghan drivers will be able to cross the border without visa or passport,” he said.
“However, from April 1, visas and passports will be mandatory.”
An Afghan government official in Torkham, Abdul Jabbar Hikmat, confirmed that trucks are being allowed to pass through again today “without the need for passports or visas”. Deaths from armed groups in Pakistan reached a six-year high in 2023, with more than 1,500 civilians, security forces and soldiers killed, according to the Islamabad Center for Security Studies and Research.
Pakistan’s biggest threat lies in the home wing of the Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Pakistani officials have said that strict trade restrictions and border closures are pressure tactics to get the Taliban government to work with Pakistan on security.
“Pakistan wants Afghanistan to stand firm against the TTP,” a local government official in the city of Peshawar, who asked not to be named, told AFP. “If they don’t do this, the trade route will be closed temporarily for various reasons. »
Islamabad recently expelled hundreds of thousands of undocumented Afghans living in Pakistan.
More than 500,000 Afghans have fled in the four months since Islamabad ordered 1.7 million Afghans living illegally in the country to leave the country or face arrest and deportation. . Millions of Afghans fleeing fighting have flocked to Pakistan in recent decades, including about 600,000 since the Taliban overthrew the US-backed government and imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic law.
Some Afghans entering Afghanistan as a result of Islamabad’s deportation program are entering the country for the first time, spending their entire lives in Pakistan. When they arrived, the migrants received little help from the government and NGOs in a country facing one of the world’s worst crises.