Following nearly five weeks of closure, Pakistan’s prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday (March 20) ordered reopening of the Pak-Afghan border.
A statement issued by the Prime Minister House, according to the daily Express Tribune, quoted PM Nawaz as hoping the Afghan government would address the reasons that led to the closing of the border.
Bilateral relations had dipped to a new low after Pakistan slammed the border shut, alleging the Afghan authorities had failed in checking anti-Pakistan terrorists operating out of eastern Afghanistan.
The order came after the UK special envoy Mark L.Grant hosted a meeting between Pakistan’s advisor on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz and the Afghan National Security Advisor (NSA) Hanif Atmar in London late last week.
Only a day before the tense London meeting, CRSS and its partner organization WPSO convened a meeting of top businessmen from both countries between March 12-15 to discuss the fallout of the closure as well as demand opening of the border.
In its five point declaration, the group comprising prominent members of the Pak-Afghan Joint Chambers of Commerce and Industries had urged the Pakistan government to reopen the border.
Keeping in view this situation, the forum urged to immediately open the border for the clearance of stranded cargo at Torkham and Spin Boldak to clear the cargo from Karachi port.
The group had also appealed to the government to use the joint group as an advisory mechanism, for advice before taking extreme measures such as closure of borders or revision of economic policies in general. The committee should also be taken into confidence before taking such measures that may hamper the overall business ties.
The group also demanded of the Pakistani Ministry of Commerce for a waiver of any applicable port charges (detention / demurrage) applied to Afghan consignments / containers accruing from the closure of the border to limit the monetary losses of the business community.
Pakistan’s National Security Advisor General Nasir Janjua in his over two hour long meeting on March 14 had already hinted at the opening of the border in his meeting with the CRSS-WPSO business delegation.
As part of the CRSS’ ongoing Pakistan- Afghanistan track 1.5/II project Beyond Boundaries in partnership with WPSO, a meeting from March 12 to 15, 2017 was convened in Islamabad, inviting top business leaders from Afghanistan chambers and Pakistan chambers in a timely intervention to start a dialogue on the early restoration of bilateral and transit trade between the two countries which has been halted by the recent border closure.
The Pak- Afghan border was abruptly closed on February 17, 2017, by the Government of Pakistan following a series of deadly attacks in the country that killed over 100 people and injured several hundreds.
The border reopening brings a sigh of relief to the business community on both sides of the border, who rely heavily on cross border trade.