Pakistan opens border with Afghanistan to bring back stranded nationals

F.P. Report

PESHAWAR: Pakistan decided to open its border with Afghanistan on Friday to bring back its stranded nationals from the neighboring country, Senator Taj Muhammad Afridi said on Saturday.

“According to a rough estimate, more than 1,500 Pakistanis are trapped in Afghanistan,” he said. “Their number may be significantly larger since hundreds of our truck drivers and their helpers have remained stuck in that country for weeks. The government decided on Friday to keep the border open for three days to facilitate their return.”

Last month, Pakistan sealed its western border with Iran and Afghanistan as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of coronavirus.

However, this prevented the return of many Pakistanis in Afghanistan to their homeland, making Senator Afridi, who is also the chairman of Senate Standing Committee on States and Frontier Regions, to write a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan and highlight the plight of these people.

Islamabad also decided last week to open the Chaman and Torkham border crossing points on “humanitarian grounds” to allow thousands of stranded Afghans to cross over into their country.

“I faced unspeakable problems during the last one month in Afghanistan,” Amjad Khan, a Pakistani dentist from Peshawar who runs his own medical practice in Kunduz, told media after returning to his country on Friday night.

“I had to wait at Torkham border for ten days,” he continued. “When we crossed over, the border authorities shifted us to a quarantine center in Landi Kotal [a town in Khyber district]. People at the center say our blood results may take days to arrive. I feel a bit distressed right now.”

Afridi said that a large number of Pakistanis work in neighboring Afghanistan. Many of them are associated with the transportation industry, but there are several others who work with the health and education sectors. Some of them are also employed by printing corporations and construction businesses.

Just a day before their return to Pakistan, many of those trapped on the other side of the border told Arab News that they were running out of cash and living on charity food.

The top administrator of Khyber district, Mahmood Aslam Wazir, said that the authorities in Torkham had allowed those Pakistani citizens to enter the country whose names were mentioned in a list provided to them by the country’s diplomatic mission in Afghanistan.

“About 195 passengers and 101 trucks were allowed to enter Pakistan. We sent these individuals to quarantine centers and fumigated their trucks,” Wazir informed.

“We have established seven quarantine facilities with a collective capacity of 1,500,” he added.

Ubaidullah Mohmand, a homeopath who treats patients in Jalalabad, told Arab News he had crossed over via Torkham on Friday night after waiting two weeks for the border to open.

“They brought me to a quarantine center in Landi Kotal,” he said. “This place has all the facilities, such as food, but we want the authorities to share our blood reports soon.”