The major crossing point at the controversial Durand Line, Torkham, has been closed by Pakistani authorities for all those who do possess passport with valid visa. Those who have other legal travel documents such as refugee cards or Rahdari Pass are allowed. But the decision has negative impact on lives of hundreds of Afghans who visit Peshawar and other cities for medical treatment or to see their relatives there. Earlier, Afghans patients having Tazkiras (national ID cards) and medical prescriptions were allowed to enter Khyber Agency and Peshawar, capital city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The recent decision of Islamabad will have strain relations between Afghan people and Pakistani government.
Afghan government deserves to be criticized because it had taken the issue lightly and kept most of the details secret. Pakistan’s Embassy in Kabul has informed the Afghan authorities of the decision. However, the authorities in Kabul had shared no or little details with the Afghan ambassador in Islamabad. Omar Zakhilwal said that he was not officially consulted on the issue, although, the Pakistani officials had informed Afghan Ministry of Defense of the decision taken a few months ago by the Afghanistan-Pakistan security coordination commission. The ambassador said that the National Security Council was also informed of the decision. Zakhilwal claimed that he was trying to get information to resolve the problem that had created challenges for Afghans living on both sides of the Durand Line.
Although, the spokesman for the National Security Council, Tawab Ghorzang, assured of resolving the issue through diplomatic channels, mostly like backdoor diplomacy, but why the government has not shared details with the Afghan embassy in Islamabad is a matter of serious concern and raised many eyebrows. If the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country had provided details about this development to the ambassador then why he resorted to Facebook to inform people of his ‘unofficial’ efforts.
Therefore, the government should share details regarding the decision with public. Serious steps should be taken to resolve the problem and facilitate the travelers. As the former president Hamid Karzai is also expected to leave for Pakistan, he shall also discuss the issue with the relevant authorities there. People living on both sides of the Durand Line cannot be separated. Thus, Afghan and Pakistani authorities should work together to resolve the problem. Allowing Afghans to travel without difficulty would improve relations between Kabul and Islamabad. Visa free entry will warm the melting ties between the two countries. The two countries shall sign an agreement to allow people to travel without obtaining visa but using only passports or national identity cards. It will not only facilitate the travelers and improve bilateral ties but would also overcome anti-Pakistan and anti-Afghanistan sentiments.