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Balochistan govt forms committee to address issues related to movement across Chaman-Spin Boldak border

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A committee comprising senior civil and military officials in Balochistan has been formed to address key issues related to cross-border movement at the Chaman-Spin Boldak gate along the frontier with Afghanistan, according to a notification issued by the Balochistan Home and Tribal Affairs Department.

Taliban authorities had closed the crossing for pedestrians and trade earlier this month over claims that traders, patients and passengers were facing difficulties but Pakistan was “unwilling to resolve problems” despite their efforts.

On October 18, the Balochistan Home and Tribal Affairs Department issued a notification, announcing the constitution of the committee to “resolve issues pertaining to cross-border movement” at the Chaman-Spin Boldak crossing.

The committee will be headed by the additional chief secretary of the Balochistan home department, said the notification, which is available with Dawn.com. Its members include the commander of 20 brigade at Chaman, the director of the Federal Investigation Agency in Quetta, representatives of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Quetta, National Logistics Cell, Quetta, Customs Collectorate and the National Database and Regulatory Authority, the Chaman deputy commissioner and co-opted members(s), the notification added.

According to the notification, the committee will make efforts for resolving issues pertaining to the closure of the Pak-Afghan border at Chaman and cross-border movements. It will also work on devising a proper mechanism for pedestrian movement across the border, discuss matters related to the impact on Afghan Transit Trade and review other issues.

Meanwhile, a member of the committee told Dawn.com that representatives from Pakistan and Afghanistan met near the border on Wednesday (today) to deliberate on a strategy for reopening the border. No details were immediately available about what transpired in the meeting.

The closure of the Chaman-Spin Boldak border has badly affected the pomegranate farmers of Afghanistan as fresh fruit is ready for export to Pakistan.

Pakistan has also slashed the duty on fresh fruit from Afghanistan except for apples.

Torkham border

Meanwhile, the Torkham border crossing remains closed for Afghans, even with valid visas, despite the passage of several months. Pakistan had closed the crossing in May, citing concerns over the spread of Covid-19.

Earlier on September 29, Shehzad Arbab, the special assistant to the prime minister on the Establishment Division, had said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed to do away with the practice of issuing permission letters for crossing the Torkham border and allow smooth entry on valid visas. The decision is, however, yet to be implemented.

For his part, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan told Dawn.com that the Pakistani embassy in Kabul has issued around 16,000 visas to Afghans since the Taliban takeover on August 15. The majority of Afghans, who have been granted the visas have, however, been stuck due to the closure of Torkham border crossing.

To add to it, Pakistan and Afghan airlines have also suspended flights operations between the two countries over a high fare controversy.

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