Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered the concerned authorities to ensure that the Torkham Afghan border remains open ’round the clock’. He has directed authorities to devise a mechanism within the next six months, such that the Torkham border crossing on the Pak-Afghan border can remain open 24/7. At present, the border remains open between 8 to 10 hours a day for trade activities between both the countries. The Torkham crossing point is the busiest one between the two neighbours.
The decision is aimed at expanding bilateral relations and trade with Afghanistan. PM Khan later tweeted, “[T]he steps will be instrumental in boosting bilateral trade and enhancing people to people contacts between the two brotherly countries”.
I have tasked the relevant govt stakeholders to make necessary arrangements for the Torkhum border to work round the clock within next 6 months. This step will be instrumental in boosting bilateral trade & enhancing people to people contacts between the two brotherly countries.— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) January 28, 2019
The announcement comes after Pakistan Army’s successful military operations in the tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as FATA), purging the area of terrorists and making it stable and peaceful enough to kick-start economic activities. The announcement also coincides with the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor’s statement a day before, that work on a 900-kilometre-long portion of fence along the Pak-Afghan border has been completed. The military spokesperson further stated that the work on the erection of about 1200 kilometer chunk was commenced last year, adding that the fencing would be completed during the current year. The fence has made it difficult for terrorists to cross the border, adding that it will stop cross-border terrorism and uncontrolled movement of people even if the law and order situation gets worst again in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the US troops, he added.
DG ISPR also pronounced that the Durand Line is a dead issue for Pakistan and it should be so for Afghanistan too, especially after the fencing. Moreover, the Afghan security forces did not show any resistance regarding border fencing; in fact, they also think that the fencing has helped them, one way or the other.
A day earlier, journalists and anchor-persons representing national and international media for the first time, on January 27, 2019, visited Miran Shah and Ghulam Khan Border Terminal, in North Waziristan. The delegation was accompanied by DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor, with the local populace also interacting with the delegation.
During his face-to-face conversations with the locals of the area, DG ISPR assured them that the shops destroyed during Operation Zarb-e-Azb will be handed over to their “rightful owners” soon. Some of the locals stated that their shops which were destroyed in the operation were to be reconstructed and handed to them but were being allotted to others through a “fake database”; though they mentioned that there has been some progress regarding the matter.
“You will have the shops before my next visit. Local administration and owners have been included and lists will be scrutinized to make sure that those who have made fake claims are not given the stores and only rightful owners are”, DG ISPR responded.
The journalists directly interacted with the people, including students, traders, and common men, to find out their views about the operation and its aftermath. The people expressed satisfaction over the conduct of the operation, which, according to them, had helped bring peace and normalcy in the region.