South Asia

Pakistan claims Torkham closure ‘temporary’, decision to be taken soon

Pakistan’s Foreign Office said Thursday that the closure of Torkham crossing was “temporary” and that a decision on reopening the border would be taken in the next few days.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said during a weekly press briefing that Pakistan was concerned about the security threat emanating from Afghanistan.

Referring to last Wednesday’s incident in Chitral, she said “we believe that such incidents embolden the terrorists and that is why it is important for the Afghan interim authorities to ensure that Afghan territory is not used to threaten Pakistan.”

On September 6, four Pakistani security force members were killed and 16 militants died in a clash. According to Pakistan, the militants were killed by troops while trying to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan.

Baloch also said that action against refugees from Afghanistan “harboring terror links” will be dealt with in accordance with the law.

Torkham crossing has been closed for nine straight days, dealing a heavy blow to commercial traffic. Hundreds of trucks have been stranded at the crossing – many of which are loaded with perishable goods including fresh fruit and vegetables.

Baloch also said Thursday that Pakistan has been implementing the Afghanistan and Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement — signed in 2020 — “in good faith”.

“We have facilitated our landlocked neighbor in their access to the rest of the world in terms of trade and we will continue to do so.”

However, she said Pakistan had some concerns regarding the misuse of the transit trade agreement but that it would engage with the Taliban on the issue.

“Our major concern is that sometimes the exports that are meant for Afghanistan are diverted back to Pakistan and the customs duties and taxes are not paid as they should be. So, there are certain concerns of our customs authorities that people are misusing the bilateral provisions that allow for trade with Afghanistan,” Baloch added.

The Taliban meanwhile issued a statement of their own on Thursday, stating that its acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi met with Pakistan’s Chargé d’Affaires to Afghanistan Ubaidur Rehman Nizamani on Thursday in Kabul to discuss recent developments.

In a statement posted to X, formerly Twitter, a Taliban spokesman Hafiz Zia Ahmad said Muttaqi and Nizamani discussed various issues including the closure of Torkham crossing. They also discussed the recent spate of arrests of refugees from Afghanistan in Pakistan, and the transit of Afghanistan’s goods through Karachi.

According to the statement, Muttaqi and Nizamani stressed the need for immediate steps to be taken to find solutions to the current problems.