Key Afghanistan-Pakistan border crossing reopens after nine days

Torkham crossing was closed after forces from both sides exchanged fire, stranding thousands of travellers and hundreds of trucks.

Pakistan Torkham
People at the Torkham border crossing [Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency]

Islamabad, Pakistan – A key border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been reopened for pedestrian and vehicular traffic after remaining closed for nine days, following an exchange of fire between the security forces of the two countries.

Muhammad Anas, an official in Khyber district of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the Torkham border crossing is located, confirmed the development to Al Jazeera on Friday.

“We opened the border gates after 7.30am today [Friday]. Immigration and custom officials arrived to resume their duties as normal, and both pedestrian and vehicular traffic was allowed to pass through,” he said.

Afghan officials in Nangarhar province on the other side of the border also confirmed the opening of the main crossing between the two nations through which hundreds of people and vehicles cross every day.

The crossing was closed on September 6 after a deadly exchange of fire between Pakistani and Afghan border forces, killing at least two Afghan soldiers and wounding several others.

Pakistan accused Afghanistan of “constructing unlawful structures” near the crossing and said unprovoked and indiscriminate firing by the Afghan forces led to its closure.

The ruling Taliban government in Afghanistan rejected the allegations and said it was only repairing an old security post when Pakistani security forces opened fire on them.

The Taliban blamed Islamabad for causing hindrances and delays in opening the transit point.

Pakistan Torkham
People at the Torkham border crossing on the Pakistani side [Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency]

Qari Nazim Gul of the All-Pakistan Customs Agents Association, told Al Jazeera the closure caused traders losses worth millions of rupees.

“We had hundreds of trucks lined up at the border. This repeated closure of Torkham gate causes suffering for people like us who are trying to earn a living or those who are just seeking to meet their families. This needs to end,” he said over the telephone.

Border officials say security has been enhanced at the border crossing after the firing incident.

Ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan remain frosty. Pakistan has repeatedly accused Afghan officials of harbouring fighters belonging to the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) armed group.

Afghan authorities deny the charges, saying they do not allow any armed group to use their soil for launching attacks on neighbouring countries.

In recent months, the TTP, ideologically aligned with the Afghan Taliban, has drastically increased its attacks on Pakistani security forces.

Earlier this month, on the day Torkham was closed, the group killed four Pakistani soldiers and lost 12 of its members in an attack in the Chitral district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Source: Al Jazeera