Insurgents say the border will remain closed until Islamabad relaxes visa rules and allows Afghans to return home without any hindrance
The Afghan Taliban have shuttered the Chaman border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan, with a senior official of the insurgents saying it will not be reopened until Islamabad eases visa rules and allows all Afghan nationals to travel across border without any hindrance.
In a statement, the Taliban’s shadow governor for Kandahar province said that the border—an important trade corridor—would remain shut unless Islamabad relaxed rules for crossing it. Pakistani officials have confirmed that the border was blocked by the Taliban on Friday morning, adding that they have also closed their side in response.
As a result of the closure, hundreds of trucks carrying goods for import and exports have been stranded at Chaman in Pakistan, and Wesh in Afghanistan. The closure could impact the import by Afghanistan of medicines and other essential goods.
The shadow governor said that all restrictions imposed on Afghan nationals wishing to cross the border must end. Alleging that Pakistan was not allowing Afghans who had entered the country for medical treatment to return to their homes, he also called for an end to any visa requirement for Afghans wishing to enter Pakistan. He said all local traders in Wesh and Chaman should be allowed to cross freely and conduct their business without any hindrance.
According to the Reuters news agency, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has confirmed the development, saying that the group’s central leadership has endorsed the shadow governor’s move. “They [Pakistan] open the border gate only for two, three hours during the entire day for people traveling from Afghanistan, including patients, refugees, traders and others,” he told the Voice of America, echoing the shadow governor’s call for the border to remain open the entire day.
“Men and women are extensively frisked and traders are also harassed,” he said, calling for an end to all such security checks.
Trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan through the Chaman border crossing resumed a week ago after being shut mid-July over the Taliban taking control of Kandahar from the elected government in Kabul. The resumption resulted from negotiations between Islamabad and the Taliban, with both sides claiming the business community was seeking early resumption of regular operations.
Since the U.S. started withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan earlier this year, the Taliban have escalated their operations against the Afghan National Army, taking control of several provincial capitals, including border crossings with Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan.
Separately, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the U.N. Ghulam Isaczai called on Pakistan to help his country “dismantle” the Taliban, stressing that their ties with terror outfits could not be broken off. Pakistan, meanwhile, has repeatedly claimed that it has lost much of its leverage over the Taliban following the U.S. withdrawal, noting that the insurgents believe they have “won” the war and no longer feel the need to listen to any outside party.