Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday ordered the re-opening of the two main border crossings to Afghanistan, after their closure last month following a series of attacks that Islamabad blamed on militants operating from across the frontier. Relations between the countries have been tense in recent months, with both accusing each other of not doing enough to tackle militants.
Pakistan last month shut the crossing at Torkham, on the road from the northwest city Peshawar to the Afghan city of Jalalabad, and at Chaman, on the road between the southwestern city of Quetta and Kandahar in Afghanistan. The government acted after more than 130 people were killed in a spate of attacks by Pakistani militants that Islamabad says have taken shelter in Afghanistan. Afghanistan denies harbouring them.
Afghanistan has long accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye to Afghan Taliban commanders on its soil and even of supporting the militant group, something Islamabad denies. “Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has issued orders to immediately open the Pakistan-Afghanistan border,” Sharif’s office said in a statement.
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Sharif said this was being done despite recent militant attacks in Pakistan being traced back to militants using Afghan sanctuaries. “We hope that the Afghanistan government will take all necessary actions to eliminate the reasons for which this step (border closure) was taken.”
Pakistani security sources said several Pakistani Taliban commanders were killed in a U.S. drone strike last week inside Afghanistan, though neither country has confirmed the attack. Attahullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of the Afghan province of Nangarhar governor, said border talks are ongoing but the gates at Torkham haven’t been opened yet.
Closing the border crossings chokes off key trading routes for landlocked Afghanistan, although it also has trade ties with other neighbours, such as Iran.
Last year, Pakistan started building a barrier at Torkham, angering Afghanistan which rejects the colonial-era Durand Line border drawn up in 1893 and does not want a solid recognition of the boundary.