June 18th, 2020

By Hidayatullah Achakzai from Qilla Abdullah

Thousands of people have been holding a sit-in protest at the Chaman border since the last 10 days, demanding the government to re-open trade activities through the Pak-Afghan border, which has been closed since March 1.

Chaman is a strategically and geographically important city located on the Pak-Afghan border in the Balochistan province. Residents of the city earn their livelihood mostly through cross border trading since even before the creation of Pakistan.

After the outbreak of Coronavirus in the country, Pakistan closed down the border crossing and halted all kinds of trade activities to prevent the spread of the deadly disease.
Now, Pakistan has managed to resume international flight operations and has opened its borders with Iran, but no notification has been issued to reopen the Chaman border. The local traders and tribal elders have raised the issue on various forums but nothing has happened.

To resolve their issues, residents and traders have resorted to protests. They have also taken out massive rallies in different streets of the city. According to protesters, restarting the trade activities at the border has now become a matter of life and death for them. They say that a human catastrophe may occur if this carries on.

Sardar Abdul Sadiq who is the President of the Traders’ Union and is leading the protests said that they only have one demand from the government – to reopen the border.

He says that cross border trading is the main source of livelihood for many of the locals and has been so for decades.

“In the past also, the authorities have made promises to build factories and markets here. They also promised to write-off our taxes but no promise has even been fulfilled,” said an angry Sadiq.

Sadiq warned that if the government did not pay heed to their demand of reopening the border they will lockdown the entire province.

Painting a worrisome picture of unemployment and poverty in the area, the President of the Afghan Import Association, Haji Asmatullah, said that if the situation persists then a human catastrophe can occur because people were now running out of their savings, and there was not even enough food to eat at home.