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March 21, 2017

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PM orders immediate reopening of border

PM orders immediate reopening of border

Pak-Afghan international border

Says closure was against economic, public interests; decision taken as goodwill gesture; hopes Afghanistan will address reasons for border’s closure

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed immediate opening of the globally-recognised crossings on the international border along with Afghanistan on Monday. The prime minister took the action as a gesture of goodwill.

Nawaz Sharif has expressed the hope that the reasons for the border’s closure would be addressed by the government of Afghanistan. It is likely that full-fledged two-way traffic would be restored today (Tuesday).

The statement issued by the Prime Minister's House earlier expressed the hope that the Afghan government will take necessary action to eliminate the cause and reasons for which this action was taken. The border was closed last month after a series of attacks, claimed by the Taliban, killed about one hundred innocent people in the country. Pakistan had accused that armed groups operating from the Afghan soil had carried out the attacks. The Afghan authorities, including Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Dr Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, had asked Pakistan to reopen the border as the closure was causing a humanitarian crisis. The government in Pakistan briefly opened the Torkham and Chaman international crossings on March 7-8 to facilitate citizens who had valid travel documents to return home. 

The two nations are divided by the Durand Line, a 2,400-kilometre frontier drawn by the British in 1896 and disputed by Kabul, which does not officially recognise it as an international border. 

Following the directions, Zakhilwal has claimed that Pakistan had opened the border unconditionally in accordance with the agreement reached in the last week's high-level talks in London. Britain hosted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Afghan National Security Adviser (NSA) Hanif Atmar on Thursday to defuse the tensions between the two countries. 

The statement issued from the Prime Minister's House maintained that despite the fact that those involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan have a connection with anti-Pakistani elements in Afghanistan, the closure of the border between the two countries, having centuries old religious, cultural and historic relations, was against the economic and public interests. The statement said: "It has been decided to re-open the border as a goodwill gesture with immediate effect, with the hope that the government of Afghanistan would take necessary steps, required to address the reasons that led to closure of the border".

The prime minister reiterated that lasting peace was vital in Afghanistan for peace and security of Pakistan. In this regard, he reiterated his resolve that Pakistan would continue its cooperation with Afghanistan for the elimination of terrorism. 

All essential items from flour to rice and from medicine to cosmetics are either exported from Pakistan or pass through it. Ashrafuddin Pirzada adds from Landikotal: After the directive by the prime minister to reopen the Pak-Afghan border, hundreds of loaded trucks moved towards Torkham but were stopped at Bagyari checkpost, located some 30 kilometres from the border, sources said.

Political Tehsildar for Torkham Shamsul Islam told reporters that they had not received the border reopening notification from the higher authorities. He said they had completed the homework to facilitate passengers and vehicles to smoothly cross the border.

Meanwhile, Ziaul Haq Sarhadi of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry praised Nawaz Sharif for reopening the Pak-Afghan border after 32 days. He told The News that traders and transporters from Pakistan and Afghanistan celebrated the reopening of the border.

Ziaul Haq Sarhadi said the government should pay the traders Rs2.5 billion to Rs3 billion as damages and demurrage charges as they had suffered losses due to the closure of the border.

 

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