Afghan and Pakistani officials shared responsibility for closing a key border post last week after cross-border shootings.
The Taliban on Tuesday rejected Pakistani government accusations that they are responsible for the closure of the Torkham border crossing, the main transit point for travelers and goods between Pakistan and landlocked Afghanistan.
Hundreds of trucks carrying essential goods have been stuck on both sides since Pakistan’s northwest border crossing was closed after an exchange of fire in a dispute over an Afghan outpost under construction.
A Foreign Ministry spokesperson in Islamabad on Monday accused the Taliban of building illegal structures and firing indiscriminately and without provocation. The spokesperson, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, also reiterated claims that Afghanistan was allowing its soil to be used for “terrorist” attacks against Pakistan.
The two countries have been exchanging blame for months over border issues and armed attacks that Islamabad says emanate from Afghan soil.
Baloch’s remarks infuriated the Taliban, with one ministry official calling the Pakistani government “helpless” because it cannot guarantee the country’s security.
Abdul Mateen Qani, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Taliban-run Interior Ministry, said such incidents happen at borders. “In this case, we did not attack,” he told the Associated Press news agency.
“When we were attacked, we defended ourselves and that is our right. It is regrettable that Pakistan has not been able to ensure its security and is blaming its problems on the Afghans, and we are intervening. This is the reason for their helplessness: they cannot ensure their own security.”
Bilal Karimi, deputy spokesperson for the Taliban administration, also condemned the Pakistani Foreign Ministry’s comments. He said that Pakistan’s internal problems were its own and their causes and roots should be sought in Pakistan.
“Our responsibility is to ensure security in our country and not attract security threats,” he told the AP. “We hope that the emphasis will be on good neighborliness and the economy. The door to good relationships must be open.
Leaders from both sides came together to resolve the issue.
“I have no more money”
Meanwhile, hundreds of trucks and travelers remained stranded at the border on Tuesday.
The Pakistani side of the border – usually busy with pedestrian and truck traffic – was abandoned on Monday, with markets and offices closed and crowds of travelers sheltering in nearby mosques.
Pakistan is in the grip of an economic slowdown, while Afghanistan is still struggling to revive its economy due to its international isolation, more than two years after the capture of Kabul by the Taliban.
Images broadcast on local Pakistani television channel Geo News showed long lines of trucks loaded with commercial goods.
Jamal Nasir, deputy commissioner of Khyber district, said 1,300 vehicles, including trucks and trailers, were waiting for the international trade center to reopen.
“Fruit and vegetable trucks were turned away because their cargo was rotten or feared rotting,” he told the AFP news agency.
Ghani Gul, a 55-year-old Afghan, was still stuck in Pakistan six days after trying to return home after receiving medical treatment in Peshawar.
“I’m stuck here and I don’t have any money,” he said. “Why should I suffer from closed borders? Both countries should do what they want, but at least keep the border open to ordinary citizens.”
Last week, Khan Afridi, president of the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the closure of the Torkham crossing had already caused the loss of a “lump sum” of $1 million.
Meanwhile, on the Afghan side, officials and residents staged a small protest on Monday, marching toward the closed border gates.
“Pakistan should not involve traders in politics,” said truck driver Siddiqullah, who goes by one name. “What are the merchants and the poor at fault? »
Pakistan was one of only three countries to officially recognize the previous Taliban government from 1996 to 2001.
But like all other countries, Pakistan has refused to recognize the current Taliban administration. Diplomatic ties have also deteriorated due to frequent outbreaks of violence along their border, including sporadic shootings and crossing closures.
Islamabad also laments that Kabul is failing to secure its border – a colonial-era demarcation that all Afghan governments have contested – allowing fighters from armed groups to cross and strike on Pakistani soil.
There has been an increase in attacks of almost 80% in the first half of 2023 compared to last year, according to the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies.