Thousands of people gather at Torkham after crossing reopens

Thousands of people were on Saturday trying to get through the Torkham crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan after the gates were reopened on Friday following a nine-day closure.

A Pakistani official said that there was a massive crowd of people at the crossing as people on both sides frantically tried to cross.

The Torkham crossing was closed by Islamabad ten days ago following a clash between the Taliban and Pakistani military.

Hundreds of trucks and thousands of travelers had been stranded on both sides of the crossing – which is the busiest border post between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

One traveler from Afghanistan, Mohammad Ismail, said that conditions had been extremely difficult for those who were stranded at the crossing.

“We were stranded here over the past 10 days. There was no place for the families to stay. All hotels were closed. Today, the crossing was reopened and so are the hotels. We were sleeping on the street alongside our children. We don’t have anything to eat now. I have borrowed some money which is also finished now. I have nothing now. My children want me to feed them. But my pocket is empty. How can I buy them food?” he said.

Families from Afghanistan, in exile in Pakistan, meanwhile said that they have been pressured by the Pakistani government to immediately leave the country.

“I came from Afghanistan when the situation worsened there. I have been living in Rawalpindi for the past three years. Now, the Pakistani government has made life difficult for us. They told me to go back to my country within two-weeks,” another traveler said.

Yasar Arafaat, a Pakistani official at Torkham crossing, said that between 4,500 and 5,000 people cross through Torkham on a daily basis.

“As the crossing was blocked for the past nine days, we will at least witness a mass number of people going through the crossing,” he said.

According to the Afghanistan and Pakistan joint chamber of commerce, traders on both sides of the Torkham crossing sustained millions of dollars in losses as a result of Torkham closure.

Many of the trucks that had been standing idle at the crossing were carrying fresh produce from Afghanistan, including fruits and vegetables.