ISLAMABAD / KHYBER AGENCY / TORKHAM: The busiest border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan reopened Saturday morning after it was closed for six days following deadly skirmishes between the border guards of the two neighbouring countries.
The fighting erupted along the Torkham border on June 12 after Afghan security forces disrupted the construction of a gate well within the Pakistani territory. At least three Afghan policemen and a Pakistani military officer were killed and dozens others, mostly civilians, were wounded in clashes that continued sporadically since Monday.
“The Torkham border reopened around 6 this morning after around six days of closure,” Muhammad Ayub Hussain Khil, border police chief in eastern Afghanistan, told AFP. “Every day huge crowds of Afghans used to cross the border for medical purposes, but now they are only allowing people with visas and passports,” he added.
The spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, Ataullah Khogyani, confirmed the reopening of the border saying it happened after ‘days of negotiations’ between the two sides.
A Pakistani official, who wished not to be named, told AFP that the border had reopened and “the construction work on the gate has also resumed.” Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman posted a message on Twitter saying: “Only passport holders allowed from Afghan side.”
At the Torkham border, armed border guards from both sides of the border shook hands and offered prayers for peace and tranquility along the border at a brief ceremony before the formal reopening of the border.
The border guards mutually agreed to let stranded patients and their attendants to cross the border first. They were followed by women and children, while able-bodied men were allowed to cross the border in the end. Thousands of stranded travellers, mostly from the Afghan side, crossed the border within a couple of hours.
Later, Pakistani and Afghan authorities resumed the clearance process for trucks and trailers stranded on their respective sides of the border. A long queue of vehicles loaded with trade goods could be seen on the Pak-Afghan Highway, right from the Parangsam checkpoint in Jamrud tehsil of Khyber Agency up to Torkham. Authorities say the clearance process would take a couple of days.