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Unrest at Torkham, most busy crossing point

By Shamim Shahid

At once the most busy, prosperous and progressive crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan at Torkham from last several years ahead with worst kind of crises. Through one or the other reasons, the crossing point either remain shuttered for travelling, pedestrians and bilateral trade or even experiencing hostilities between the two sides.

Never ever in its history, local tribesmen-almost Shinwaris have created any problem or hardships for the authorities from both sides or made attempts of closing it. But unfortunately from last several years, when the government on the name of “border management” initiated steps, closures, protests and hostilities are order of the day at Torkham.

Amidst shuttering of Torkham for pedestrians since May 5 last, another issue erupted late on Tuesday night when the Shinwari tribesmen have blocked construction of multi-purposes installations. In fact, Shinwari tribesmen from last agitating against violation of a lease agreement made with them. In according to agreement, the Shinwari tribesmen have leased out around 300 kanals of lands for construction of multi-purposes installations. But now the tribesmen allege that authorities concerned have occupied land beyond of lease agreement.

Similarly, almost Shinwari tribesmen also rendered jobless due to implementation of  “border management” when almost their shops, markets and other commercial properties, disconnected from roads and main crossing points.

The merger of tribal regions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also resulted in generation of stock of complications as earlier one Political Agent was responsible for almost heals and deals but now scores of personnel and office holders of over one dozen government organs are making decisions without consulting their fellows from other departments or organs. The Tuesday afternoon act on the part of protesting tribesmen lead to arrest of over 45 persons including leading tribal elders, closure of Pak Afghan highway for bilateral trade and shuttering of almost bazaars, markets and shopping centers for almost trade and business activities. The tribesmen right from Hayatabad Market till Torkham are ahead with tension and unrest. Even elected MP’s from District Khyber are participating in protests and chanting slogans against the government of Pakistan.

In the wake of situation erupted with 9/11 tragedy, the armed forces (regular) have been deployed along with Pak Afghan cursing areas throughout the belt. But the merger of FATA in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has legalized the posting and deployment of non locals in almost border areas. Affairs of Torkham and other crossing points in tribal districts are now run by non locals who are either employees or contractors of NLC and other bodies are officials of different law enforcing agencies. All these locals are known for their indifferent behave with the local tribesmen-who are real custodians of the soil.

At once, Torkham was the major livelihood source for thousands of families from Khyber district and Peshawar city. But now only a few dozens are engaged in trade and transport activities between Peshawar and Torkham. Likewise, the volume of bilateral trade was shrinked to only 300 million US dollars from five billion US dollars (2005-2006). People and office holders from almost trade, business and transport circles are making requests for re-visiting of Pakistan imposed “border management” or “border restriction” policies from last several years.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are not only neighours like Iran, India and China but millions of people from both sides are linked in unbreakable relations. Both the countries could easily address each other’s economic and manpower needs. By entering into trust worth diplomatic and political relations, both the countries could emerge as “most peaceful, prosperous and progressive” states throughout the world. Instead of continuing fuelling of hostilities-based policies, rulers at Islamabad and Kabul must re-visit their policies.

Whatever might be intentions of concerned NLC high ups but the tribesmen are real custodians of properties at Torkham. They need to honour all promises and commitments with tribesmen, which may help them in getting of goals and objectives. Likewise, the rulers need to ensure posting and deployment of personnel and office holders who are familiar with the tribal culture and traditions. Deployment of people from Punjab, Gilgit-Baltistan and other non Pushtoon areas always multiplying matters in tribal regions.

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