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Afghan govt closes Torkham border crossing

Afghan govt closes Torkham border crossing

Installation of ‘Welcome to Pakistan’ signboard apparent cause of latest closure

Shamim Shahid

Peshawar: Afghan authorities on Wednesday closed the Torkham border crossing between the two countries in an apparent protest against a ‘Welcome to Pakistan’ signboard being installed at the crossing’s Zero Point.

As work crews were installing the signboard, Afghan authorities closed the international border crossing to all vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

The crossing at Torkham is a key trading waypoint, where Afghanistan exports truckloads of coal and receives food and other supplies from Pakistan.

Similarly in September, the border remained closed for two days after a gun battle erupted between Pakistan and Afghan border forces, with each side blaming the other for starting the firefight.

In recent weeks, Pakistan’s apparent shift in its policy regarding the Afghan Taliban has further created a tense environment. Islamabad earlier stated that it will no longer extend any “special privileges” to the interim Afghan Taliban government.

Pakistan’s policy of acting as the Afghan interim government’s spokesperson often drew strong criticism both from within and outside the country. However, officials at that time defended the approach, insisting that the Afghan Taliban were a reality and had no other option but to work with them.

In the past, Islamabad made efforts with other regional players to ensure that sanctions against the Afghan Taliban government were lifted and Kabul should have access to the funds frozen by the US soon after the fall of Kabul in August 2021. However, Pakistan’s goodwill gestures and assistance extended to the Afghan Taliban government after its return to power in August 2021 were taken for granted.

Also, Pakistan in order to facilitate the Afghan interim government, gave many incentives to Afghanistan in terms of trade and other facilities. But now, the sources said, Pakistan would no longer extend any special favours to the Afghan Taliban government as they were harbouring “our enemies”.

The relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan is already on the edge over the presence of TTP sanctuaries across the border.

The latest move by Pakistan to repatriate Afghans having no refugee status or visa has further compounded the bilateral relationship as the Taliban government is not happy with Islamabad and several Pakistani leaders.

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