Home Latest News No Progress in Reopening Torkham Border Crossing

No Progress in Reopening Torkham Border Crossing

In statement, Foreign Office blames ‘temporary closure’ on Afghan troops’ unprovoked firing on Pakistani troops on Sept. 6

by Staff Report

File photo

Six days since the closure of the Torkham border crossing following an exchange of fire between Pakistani and Afghan troops, little progress has been made to resolve the situation even as transporters on both sides lament the impact on bilateral trade.

On Sunday, officials of both sides met at Zero Point in a bid to reopen the border, but were unable to reach any conclusive resolution, as local media reported that Pakistani officials had informed their Afghan counterparts they could not commit to anything without the consultation of senior authorities.

According to various reports, the Afghan side has communicated fears that a prolonged closure could lead to the decomposition of perishable items. In a statement, the Afghan foreign ministry described the closure of Torkham gate as contrary to the values of a “good neighbor,” and blamed Pakistan for initiating the clash when Afghan forces were repairing an old security checkpost.

“The closure of Torkham gate can adversely affect bilateral and regional trade and could cause trade and financial losses to merchants on both sides,” read the statement, stating this harmed bilateral trade and boosted “distance between the fraternal people and countries while also creating impediments and delays for regional trade and transit.”

Emphasizing that the interim Afghan government wanted to resolve the issue through dialogue, it claimed that the border closure was detrimental to both the trade of Afghanistan, as well as the economy of Pakistan, “which is currently dependent on exports to Afghanistan more than ever.”

Rubbishing this view, Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Monday described the Afghan statement as a “surprise” considering Kabul was well aware of the reasons for the temporary closure of the Torkham border crossing. “Pakistan cannot accept the construction of any structures by the interim Afghan government inside its territory since these violate its sovereignty,” it said, accusing Afghan troops of resorting to “indiscriminate firing, targeting Pakistan military posts, damaging the infrastructure at the Torkham Border Terminal, and putting the lives of both Pakistani and Afghan civilians at risk.”

Stressing that such “unprovoked and indiscriminate firing” could not be justified under any circumstances, it said such actions invariably emboldened terrorist elements. “These elements are enjoying sanctuaries inside Afghanistan as confirmed by the U.N. Security Council’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team in its latest report,” it said.

“We have always said that we wish the border with Afghanistan to be a border of peace and amity between the two countries,” read the statement, noting Pakistan had welcomed Afghan brothers and sisters with open arms for decades. “Pakistan has continued to exercise restraint and prioritize dialogue in the face of persistent unwarranted provocations by Afghan troops deployed along the Pak-Afghan border,” it said, noting temporary closures only occurred in “extreme cases” such as the Sept. 6 incident or when Afghan soil is used to launch terror attacks inside Pakistan.

“The statement of the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs also includes some irrelevant comments and unsolicited advice about Pakistan’s economy and foreign trade,” said the Foreign Office. “For the last several decades, Pakistan has facilitated Afghan transit trade and will continue to do so,” it said, adding this did not mean the transit trade agreement could be misused. “Pakistan stands ready to resolve all bilateral issues and concerns through constructive dialogue so that both countries can reap the dividends of economic connectivity and resultant prosperity,” it said, adding Islamabad expected Kabul to be mindful of Pakistan’s concerns, respect the territorial integrity of Pakistan and ensure that Afghan territory is not used as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against Pakistan.

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