Taliban close Chaman border crossing to demand visa-free entry for Afghans

By: News Desk      Published: 07:23 PM, 6 Aug, 2021
Taliban close Chaman border crossing to demand visa-free entry for Afghans

The Taliban closed a key border crossing with Pakistan Friday, saying no one would be allowed through until Islamabad dropped or relaxed its visa requirements for Afghans, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

The Taliban, wresting control of Afghanistan in the wake of a withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign troops, last month captured the southeast Chaman-Spin Boldak border crossing from Afghan forces. Pakistan initially closed its side of the crossing, landlocked Afghanistan's second busiest entry point and main commercial artery to the sea, before reopening it last week.

But since the Taliban took control of Chaman-Spin Boldak, Pakistani border officials there have begun enforcing visa requirements for Afghans which previously were not as strictly observed.

Pakistani border officials at Chaman said the Taliban had placed concrete barriers to block the road on their side of the Friendship Gate, the crossing point between the two countries.

They said that placing the concrete barriers on the border has been unprecedented.

Pakistan responded by closing its side of the border on Friday, leaving pedestrians, passenger vehicles, and cargo trucks stranded.

Many Afghans living in Pakistan have been issued migration cards by Islamabad allowing them to stay, but those who want to enter Pakistan today need to obtain a visa.

According to Pakistan’s custom official, due to the closure, all the transit trade through the crossings has been suspended.

According to the FIA, the walk-in crossing from the border has also been closed on both sides of the border leaving thousands stranded on the border. According to custom officials, all the offices dealing with the Afghan trade route have also been shut down and the clearing for the trade vehicles had already been cancelled yesterday.

In a statement on Friday, the Taliban statement called on Pakistan to scrap all visa requirements for Afghans.

"(The crossing) will remain closed for all types of commuting, including transit and trade, for both sides, and pedestrians, until the Pakistani side leaves the gate open, morning to evening, for Afghans holding [Pakistani issued] migration cards or [Afghan] ID cards," the insurgent group's shadow governor for Kandahar province Haji Wafa said in the statement.

According to Haji Wafa, all the trade and travel will remain suspended indefinitely.

He demanded of Pakistan to restore the traditional trade facilities of the tribes residing along the border.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group's leadership had endorsed the move, and on Friday the border had been closed.

Haji Wafa said a large number of senior citizens, children and women have been left stranded on both sides of the Friendship Gate for many days and showed his reservations over the miserable condition of the travelers.

He said Pakistani officials were running the border on its own accord which is unilateral.

Since U.S.-led foreign troops began leaving Afghanistan earlier this year, fighting between the Taliban and Afghan forces has escalated significantly. In recent weeks, the Taliban have advanced rapidly on provincial capitals and targeted top government officials inside Kabul.

The hardline Islamist insurgents have also taken control of several border crossings, including with Iran and Central Asian countries, but the crossing with Pakistan provides a significant customs revenue.

Ensuring it is open for visa-free travel would not only curry favour with ordinary Afghans, but also shore up a route to parts of Pakistan that have historically housed the insurgent group's fighters and part of its leadership.

Afghan government data indicates the route was used by 900 trucks a day before the Taliban seized it. The closure could impact import of medicines and other essential goods as violence has sharply escalated in Afghanistan amidst a pandemic, with the United Nations saying hundreds of thousands have been displaced internally.

Categories : Pakistan