Border trade halts as Pakistan imposes restrictions on Afghans

Border trade halts as Pakistan imposes restrictions on Afghans

PESHAWAR:

Trade was halted Tuesday at border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan after Islamabad imposed stricter immigration rules on commercial vehicle drivers and crew, officials said.

The Pakistan government has launched a massive operation against undocumented Afghans living in the country, alongside a crackdown on cross-border smuggling.

Nearly 350,000 Afghans — many born in refugee camps in Pakistan — have returned voluntarily or been deported since the order to leave was issued last month.

On Tuesday, Pakistan said it would no longer allow Afghans to enter unless they had valid passports and visas, ending their ability to visit using only their national identity cards or driver’s licences.

“In response, the Afghan government has also stopped the entry of all types of commercial vehicles from the other side,” said a Pakistani official at the northern Torkham border, asking not to be named.

Afghan border official Esmatullah Yaqoob said officials “have been instructed to also block (Pakistani) vehicles coming from their side”.

At the southern Chaman border, a sit-in protest against the new rules prevented traders from crossing.

The row is one of several thorny issues that have grown between Kabul and Islamabad since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021.

Read also: Illegal Afghan migrants

Pakistan says the deportations are to protect its “welfare and security” after a sharp rise in attacks which the government blames on militants operating from Afghanistan, and a lack of cooperation from the Taliban government.

The United Nations on Tuesday said as of November 11, more than 320,000 people had returned to Afghanistan.

Pakistan border officials put the latest figure at more than 345,000.

Afghan authorities are struggling to cope with the influx of returnees — including many who have never set foot in the country.

The tightening of trade rules has also affected Afghanistan-bound containers at Karachi port as authorities demand more tax and duty payments.

The Pakistan government says it loses millions of dollars in taxes because goods are being sent duty-free from its ports to land-locked Afghanistan, and then smuggled back across the border.

Afghan authorities say the hold-up has caused millions of dollars in losses to its traders.


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