Pakistani and Afghan authorities have agreed to work together to improve and facilitate cross-border trade and pedestrian movement.
The agreement came during a meeting of the Pak-Afghan Border Management Committee in the Afghan customs offices in Gumrak area on Wednesday.
The Pakistani delegation comprised Lt-Colonel Mujtaba, retired Colonel Sattar of the National Logistic Cell, ADC Rizwan and officials of the police, Anti-Narcotics Force and health department, while Afghanistan was represented by a director-general (customs) Abdul Hadi, deputy director (import and export) Qazi Hamid, and border security and health officials.
Participants discussed the reasons for the week-long unilateral closure of the Torkham border by Afghan border forces on Feb 19 accusing Pakistani forces of manhandling Afghan patients and denying them and their attendance permission to enter their country without visa.
Bilateral border management committee discusses issues
Sources privy to the Wednesday meeting told Dawn that Afghan authorities once again complained about Pakistan’s refusal to allow patients and their attendants from Afghanistan entry to its soil without visa in emergency situations as well as the Afghan conductors with drivers with trade goods.
The Afghan officials also sought entry permission for Afghan vehicles equivalent to Pakistani ones crossing over to Afghanistan as well as for the stranded citizens, who held Afghan cards or Prove of Registration (PoR) cards.
The sources also said that the Afghan authorities requested Pakistani counterparts not to seize the PoRs and Afghan cards and only punch them as most of the returning Afghans, who had lived in Pakistan for decades, were without other identification cards or legal travel documents.
They said the Afghan side also insisted that people of their country, who didn’t have PoRs or Afghan cards and were returning to Pakistan under the UNHCR voluntary repatriation programme, should be granted permission to go back with other family members.
The sources said that Afghan authorities insisted that all those issues should be mutually resolved in order to prevent sudden border closures in future.
They said that officials of both countries failed to reach a consensus over permission for the attendants of patients and Afghan transport conductors without visa.
The sources, however, claimed that Pakistani officials assured their Afghan counterparts that they would take up those issues with higher authorities in Islamabad for a decision.
They said that both sides agreed to make concerted efforts to effectively stop child porters from secretly taking sugar and oranges to Afghanistan and smuggling goods to Pakistan.
The sources said that both Pakistani and Afghan officials were unanimous in their opinion that involvement of child porters in cross-border smuggling was a source of hindrance to the smooth flow of vehicular movement on both sides of the border besides impeding pedestrian movement.
They said that the Afghan side also sought an increase in the number of patients from their country to go to Pakistan for treatment as a large number of such citizens desperately waited for their departure due to the closure of Torkham border twice during the last three weeks.
The sources said that the Pakistani side promised full cooperation to the Afghan delegation on the matter.