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Pak-Afghan border reopened after remaining closed for 18 days

08 March, 2017

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KHYBER AGENCY: Thousands of stranded Afghan citizens crossed the Pak-Afghan border when it was reopened on Tuesday after remaining closed for 18 days.

A Khyber Rifles official said that following the decision of the government, the Torkham border was reopened at 7am and the Afghan nationals stranded in Pakistan were allowed to cross the border.

It is pertinent to mention here that on Monday night the government of Pakistan had announced reopening the Torkham and Chaman borders for two days to facilitate stranded Afghan nationals to return to their country. "In order to provide an opportunity to those nationals of Afghanistan who had come to Pakistan on valid visas and wish to return to their country, the government of Pakistan has decided to open the border crossings at Torkham and Chaman on March 7 and 8," the Foreign Office had said in a statement. Pakistan had sealed the Torkham and Chaman crossings on February 16 after a string of suicide attacks killed more than 130 people across the country.

The temporary opening was for people who had travelled for medical, work and business purposes but were left stranded, according to Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal. "They wanted to go back to Afghanistan but were stuck after the borders were shut," he said, adding that arrangements were being made to airlift them if the border crossing remained shut.

The relaxation of border crossing was granted to pedestrians only, while vehicles with commodities were still stranded at the border, the official confirmed. He further said that Afghan citizens having legal travelling documents, including passports and visas, were permitted to move to their motherland.

Likewise, from the Afghan side, Pakistanis with passports were allowed to cross into Pakistan. However, according to the official, entry of Afghan citizens into Pakistan was banned even if the people had valid documents. Levies official Hikmat Afridi said that after the airing of the news regarding the reopening of Torkham border, thousands of Afghans thronged the border to go to their homeland. Extra troops of the Frontier Corps (FC) along with Khasadar Force had been deployed at Michni checkpost, five miles away from the border, who checked the passports of the Afghan passengers, he maintained, and added that the passport holders were allowed to approach the border, while those who did no have proper documents were sent back from the checkpoint.

The policy affected dozens of repatriating Afghan citizens, as they asked the authorities for permission to move to their country.

Razi Gul, a driver and resident of Nangarhar province of Afghanistan who was refused by the border security officials to cross the border, said that days back he had brought a child of his relatives to Peshawar for medical treatment by paying Rs 2,000 fine at the border. But now the authorities did not allow him to go back to Afghanistan, he claimed. As per the details provided by the tehsildar (passport), Shamsul Islam, as many as 2,300 Afghan citizens had so far returned to Afghanistan, while 500 Pakistanis cross into the Pakistani territory.

He further said that the repatriation process would continue until 8pm today (Wednesday), and efforts would be made to facilitate the people at the border.

Meanwhile, an Afghan woman died in a stampede near the National Logistic Cell (NLC) terminal, Torkham, on Tuesday, a political administration official said.

The official said that Afghan citizen Noor Zia, wife of Ahmadullah of Perwan province of Afghanistan, having passport No 02247899, along with her family was on her way to Afghanistan following reopening of the border when she fell down and died in a stampede at 2pm.

The untoward incident took place as scores of people returning to Afghanistan had gathered at the clearing point. After necessary clearing documentation, her body was handed over to the Afghan border security officials at Torkham border, the official confirmed.

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