November 26, 2023

Staff Report


LAHORE

Despite temperatures cooling down, thousands continue their sit-in at the Spin Boldak crossing at the Chaman border. It is now the 37th day of this sit-in, and the protestors continue to demand that cross-border movement at the Pak-Afghan border must be allowed freely. Yet the government has been ignoring these appeals.

The sit-in started in October when thousands of traders, civil society activists and workers from various political parties united to ask the government to change its policy and to regularize the crossing of borders for Pakistanis and Afghans on both sides via a single document regime.

A Halt on Trade & Crossing

The decision to close down the border was taken by the National Apex Committee in October, while the border crossing policy was imposed from November 1.  Now, no one is allowed to cross the Pak-Afghan border without a valid passport and visa authorized by both sides.

But even now the traders collected in the sit-in are urging the Government to rethink its decision, and to allow people to cross with only their national identity cards.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that the denial to allow this is a violation of the Easement Right – a right granted to those Afghan and Pashtun tribes in the Durand Line Treaty who live on both sides of the border. According to the Easement Right, these people can move across the border within limits of the tribe without a passport or visa.

At the same time, protestors are also calling for an end to the enforced deportation of Afghan refugees and their harassment by the police.

Efforts of Negotiation Have Failed

Senior officials of the federal and provincial (Balochistan) government did hold negotiations with the leadership of the sit-in, and the elders of the area, but in vain. The negotiations have failed. Now the Quetta -Chaman highway has been blocked by protestors who have put up barricades and hurdles, and thereby suspending all kinds of trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan through the authorized border crossing between Chaman and Spin-Boldak, called Friendship Gate.

Intimidation & Media Coverage

At the same time, the sit-in has received no proper coverage from any mainstream media channel and very little coverage from digital and print media.

On November 11, the son of the mayor of Chaman city was abducted. A political activist, he had been protesting against the government’s imposition policy. He was released a day later, shaken. A day before this, Hidayat-ur-Rehman from the Haq Dou Gwadar Movement was not allowed to attend the protest and neither was Mohsin Dawar from the National Democratic Front. When Voicepk reached out to them, Rehman said that it was because the authorities were ‘scared’ of the speeches they may make, and that it could become an even bigger and stronger movement.

He had added that this was their right to Freedom of Assembly a basic constitutional right but the government was clearly violating it by stopping them.

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