Torkham border tensions – Afghan delegates enter Pakistan
The delegation, led by Karzai, is visiting Islamabad at the invitation of the Sartaj Aziz to discuss a nearly week-long standoff at the Torkham border.
Torkham – the busiest border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan in Khyber Agency – reopened Saturday morning after it was closed for six days following deadly clashes between the border guards of the two militancy-plagued neighbours. The fighting was triggered on June 12 by an Afghan security forces attempt to disrupt the construction of a gate well within the Pakistani territory.
Both sides later declared ceasefire and the border was opened on Saturday. However, troops and tanks have been deployed by both sides.
The Foreign Ministry in Islamabad said both sides will hold discussions on the issues relating to Torkham border crossing as well as other matters pertaining to border management.
Pakistan has started introducing a new border mechanism at the Torkham border from June 1. Under the new border controls, Pakistan has made it clear that no one would be allowed to cross the border without a valid passport and a visa.
Official sources say Pakistan will stick to its position with regard to the new border rules.
Sartaj Aziz has already spelt out Islamabad’s stance in a policy statement in which he said the new border rules had been introduced as part of the government’s counter terrorism strategy to check infiltration of terrorists from Afghanistan.
Aziz said the issue of terrorism and smuggling could not be tackled until some sort of border management system was put in place at the Pak-Afghan border. Almost 50,000 people cross the Torkham border without questioning.
Aziz said Afghanistan wanted Pakistan to stop construction of the Torkham gate. “However, we are building the gate on our side of the border, and we do not need anyone’s permission.” After its completion, the gate, which, he said, was being built 30-35 metres inside Pakistan’s territory, would be opened for traffic.