Jan 16, 2024
by Muhammad Junaid & Mateen Ali
As many as 3,000 trucks are stranded at the Torkham border, the busiest frontier crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan, because of recently imposed visa restrictions on truck drivers, halting trade at the border.
Border authorities told transporters from both countries that they could not move to either side of the border until they have valid visas on their passports. Under the ‘Right to Easement’ which calls for free movement, truckers have for a long time been able to cross the border without showing documents so they generally do not carry them.
The new visa policy follows Pakistan’s massive and stringent campaign against undocumented Afghans living in Pakistan in the wake of a surge in terrorism. Pakistan has deported more than half a million Afghans without valid papers in recent months. The country has also tightened document requirements for Afghans entering the country. In response, Afghanistan is now asking Pakistani drivers for passports and visas.
This has resulted in the suspension of border trade, inflicting heavy losses on traders from both countries.
Local transporters have demanded that Pakistani officials show leniency in the implementation of the visa policy and let vehicles cross the border. They maintained that these curbs would badly impact bilateral trade and would only result in financial losses.
SCCI delegation meets KP interim CM
Meanwhile, Sarhad Chamber of Commerce & Industry representatives along with a delegation of local traders held discussions with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s interim Chief Minister Justice (retd) Syed Arshad Hussain Shah regarding the closure of transport and challenges posed by new visa curbs.
They informed the chief minister that hundreds of trailers carrying perishable items are stranded on both sides of the borders. “Due to the closure of the border, four billion dollars are being lost daily. The traders of Peshawar are facing bankruptcy,” they maintained.
Chaman sit-in completes three months
Meanwhile, a massive sit-in against the government’s new visa policy for traders involved in informal cross-border trade at the Chaman border crossing has completed its three months (91 days).
Chaman is the second busiest border crossing between the two countries where protests and sit-ins have continued since October last year. The protesters are demanding free trade on the border as it was going on before the visa regime of the government.