Afghanistan’s top envoy to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal on Saturday said he has not been provided with a convincing justification by the civilian and military leadership of Pakistan for the continued closure of crossing points on the Pak-Afghan border.
Zakhilwal added that the argument presented, to stop terrorists from crossing over in Pakistan, does not carry any weight as “these points such as Torkham and Spin Boldak have been manned by hundreds of military and other security personnel” and have all the necessary equipment and infrastructure in place to verify identities.
“Continuous unreasonable closure of legal Pak-Afghan trade and transit routes cannot have any other explanation except to be aimed at hurting the common Afghan people,” said the envoy in a social media post.
The envoy claimed the closure of the crossing points hurts bilateral trade between the two countries and Pakistan is losing more as a result of the closures.
“Pakistan’s declining export share in Afghanistan is indicative of that,” said Zakhilwal.
He also said the closure is in direct contradiction to the theme, objectives and messages of the recently held Economic Cooperation Organisation summit in Islamabad.
Afghanistan’s top envoy said he has raised the issue of at least 25,000 Afghan nationals who are unable to return to their country due to the closure, but they have not been able to return after repeated assurances in the past few weeks.
He elaborated that he was given assurances of partial opening of the border crossings to facilitate his countrymen, who either came to Pakistan for medical treatment or personal visits.
Zakhilwal also said he had a conversation today with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, in which he conveyed that if an opening was not allowed for the return of stranded Afghans, he would ask his government “to provide chartered flights to lift them”.
“This, however, would reflect a very poor picture.”
On February 16, in the aftermath of a suicide attack at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, the government decided to seal Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan for an indefinite period.
The Pak-Afghan border crossing at Torkham was sealed for all kinds of communication due to security concerns.
The newly built Pakistan Gate on the Torkham border was opened in August last year, to both traffic and pedestrians, albeit without a formal ceremony.
Clashes between Pakistani and Afghan security forces over the construction of the border gate last year left four soldiers dead on both sides, including Frontier Corp’s Major Ali Jawad Changezi.
The clashes had kept Torkham, one of the busiest crossing points between the two countries and used by 15,000 to 20,000 people and hundreds of vehicles daily, closed for six days.