Pakistan reopens Torkham border crossing to Afghanistan

Following deadly clashes at border and week-long pile-up of trucks, neighbours negotiate and de-escalate tensions.

Transit trucks stranded due to the border skirmishes between Pakistan and Afghanistan are parked on the side of the road leading to the border in Torkham
File: Trucks have been piling up since Pakistan closed the Torkham crossing due to security concerns [Fayaz Aziz/Reuters]

Pakistan has reopened the Torkham crossing along its border with Afghanistan that had been closed following deadly clashes between the two sides.

The border was opened on Saturday morning, making way for thousands of trucks which had been piling up on both sides. The reopening follows talks a day earlier between Islamabad and Kabul.

“A week-long delay has meant a backlog on both sides. The priority now is to keep movement flowing,” said Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from the so-called zero line. “There is a more upbeat mood following negotiations.”

At least four people were killed in fighting in the area last Sunday, heightening the dispute over Pakistan’s plan to build a barrier at the crossing to stop fighters coming in from Afghanistan. 

At least 20 others have also been wounded in outbreaks of shooting on both sides.

READ MORE: Border guard killed in Pakistan-Afghanistan clashes

That plan to build a barrier angered Afghanistan which rejects the colonial-era Durand Line border drawn up in 1893 and does not want a solid recognition of the boundary.

The Torkham crossing is usually used by about 15,000 Afghans every day. Following the restrictions implemented by Pakistan earlier in June, it was closed to anyone who did not have a visa and a valid passport.

Our correspondent said that Pakistan would still require increased documentation from those travelling through.

The crossing is a way of making ends meet for many. It is usually packed with cargo-filled trucks and minibuses crammed with passengers.

Some walk, from entire families and merchants to children, often on their own.

Thousands of vehicles normally pass through the crossing every week, making it a vital trade link between the countries.

“We saw many people waiting desperately for this opening,” said Al Jazeera’s Abdullah Shahood, reporting from the Afghan side of the crossing.

“When we talked to Afghan border police officials, they said they were very happy about this opening, and that their meetings were very productive. They got what they wanted: to open the gate,” he said.

Among those waiting to cross were members of a family who wanted to attend a funeral.

“They wanted to cross for the burial, in their own soil,” he said. “Afghan officials have said that the Pakistani side has agreed to stop any construction on the ‘zero point'”.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies