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Pakistan weaponizes Torkham border for political ends

AT News

KABUL – Pakistan has imposed a closure on Torkham border crossing, utilizing it as a pressure tactic to advance its political interests concerning Afghanistan. The move, initiated on January 13, reinstates the “one document regime” policy, demanding Afghan civilians to hold passports with valid Pakistani visas for transit.

As negotiations unfold between the two nations to resolve the impasse, trade activities have come to a standstill, leaving hundreds of trucks loaded with perishable goods stranded. This recent maneuver by Islamabad is seen as an attempt to assert influence over its diplomatic relationship with Afghanistan.

The tension stems from the divergence of interests between Pakistan and the Taliban, particularly regarding the Durand Line and the sanctuary provided to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The Taliban’s reluctance to endorse Pakistan’s policies has strained their previously amicable ties, leading to Islamabad’s varied attempts to bring the Taliban in line, all met with limited success.

From public statements by the Pakistani Prime Minister to the deportation of undocumented immigrants and attempts to enforce new visa rules, the caretaker government’s efforts reflect a broader strategy guided by the powerful Pakistani military. Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s recent visit to Kabul underscores this, revealing the military’s involvement in diplomatic maneuvers.

The ongoing border issues have far-reaching economic implications, with imbalanced trade between the nations dropping from $2.5 billion in 2010 to just above $1.8 billion in 2022-23. Afghanistan heavily relies on Pakistani goods, giving Islamabad considerable leverage. However, Pakistan cites financial losses as a reason to reconsider its open-border policies.

The current impasse not only affects trade but also hints at a larger agenda, as Pakistan seeks to formalize the Durand Line and restrict the free movement of tribes in the region. The reciprocal denial of entry for Pakistani trucks carrying various goods into Afghanistan further deepens the diplomatic strain.

While the border closure may resolve in the coming days, the underlying tension between Pakistan and the Taliban suggests a prolonged period of uncertainty, leaving Islamabad grappling with the realization that its once stalwart ally has chosen a different path.

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