Signboard row: Afghan govt reopens border after closure for hours

December 07, 2023

LANDIKOTAL: The Afghan government reopened the Torkham border on Wednesday after keeping the crossing closed for several hours to protest the installation of a welcoming signboard by Pakistan near the zero point.

A border official said the Afghan government objected when the Pakistani side started installing a signboard inscribed with the welcoming slogan.

He said the slogan on the signboard had been written in English, Urdu and Russian languages to welcome the passengers from Afghanistan. The official said the Pakistani side tried to convince the Afghan counterparts but the efforts failed and the Afghan officials closed the border crossing in protest.Hundreds of loaded and empty vehicles remained stranded on both sides of the border due to closure.

Trucks are pictured at the zero point Torkham border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Nangarhar province on December 6, 2023. — AFP

However, the Taliban government reopened the border crossing and the traffic resumed following hours-long disruption after the assurance by Pakistani border officials.

Meanwhile, Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry has expressed concern over the closure of the border at Torkham for trade for almost 24 hours.

Coordinator for the chamber, Ziaul Haq Sarhadi, said the border crossing at Torkham was closed for goods laden trucks at around 4:00 pm on Tuesday.

He said the installation of a welcoming signboard at the zero-point was stated to be the reason, adding though the pedestrian crossing was kept open but trucks were not allowed to cross the border.

Sarhadi said it was a source of grave concern for the business community because the closure of the border inflicts heavy losses on the traders from both the countries. He said the volume of Pak-Afghan trade had already shrunk by around 70 percent after restriction over import of a number of items for the transit trade, shifting a large portion to Bandar Abbas port of Iran.

Ziaul Sarhadi said the closing of borders for trade was very detrimental for promotion of commerce in the region and between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Torkham border was also closed for several days on September 6 after both sides exchanged fire over the construction of a bunker on the Afghanistan side of the Torkham border.