Pakistan reopens border crossing with Afghanistan after shooting

Key crossing at Chaman reopened a week after an Afghan gunman killed a Pakistani security guard there.

Chaman border
People from Afghanistan cross into Pakistan at the 'Friendship Gate' crossing point, in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan [File: Saeed Ali Achakzai/Reuters]

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan has reopened a key border crossing with neighbouring Afghanistan a week after an Afghan gunman killed a Pakistani security guard there, forcing a closure of the crossing.

Shehzad Zehri, an official in Chaman, the border city in the southwestern province of Balochistan, confirmed the reopening to Al Jazeera on Monday.

“The deadlock has ended and mobility between the two countries has resumed for all purposes, including pedestrians as well as trade,” he said.

Officials told Al Jazeera the decision to reopen the Chaman border crossing – also known as Friendship Gate – was taken in a meeting between Pakistani and Afghan authorities on Sunday.

Abdul Hameed Zehri, another official in Chaman, said the Afghan authorities expressed regret over last week’s incident and assured action.

The Chaman border, situated nearly 120km (74 miles) to the northwest of Pakistan’s provincial capital Quetta, is one of the busiest border crossings between the two countries and is used by thousands of people every day.

The crossing was closed on November 13 when a Pakistani soldier posted at the border was fired upon. There was a brief exchange of fire between the two armies following the incident.

Imran Kakar, former president of the Chaman Chamber of Commerce, who was present in Sunday’s meeting, said the talks took place in a “friendly environment”.

Kakar said the local business community hopes such incidents will not hamper the livelihood of thousands of traders who use the crossing.

“Both countries get affected. People get affected. Businesses get affected. These issues must only be resolved through dialogue, and ensure that trade does not stop,” he told Al Jazeera.

In a statement last week, the Taliban government in Afghanistan condemned the incident and ordered the formation of a fact-finding committee to investigate it.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Friday rejected allegations in Pakistani media reports that the attacker was a member of the Afghan border forces.

Since its takeover of Kabul last year, the Afghan Taliban has maintained an uneasy relationship with Islamabad.

Pakistan accuses Afghanistan of providing safe haven to armed groups, a charge denied by the Taliban.

Pakistan was among a handful of nations to recognise the first Taliban government when it came to power in Afghanistan in the late 1990s.

But Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, in a news conference on Friday, said his government will not recognise the Taliban government until an international consensus is reached.

“As far as their official recognition is concerned, Pakistan would not want to take a solo flight and would rather pursue this process with international consensus,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera