Disorderly situation at the Torkham border post

TORKHAM: The pathetic conditions at the border crossing, especially on this side of the border, the smell of urine, the unsanitary environment and above all the rude attitude of the staff members of countless authorities – for the mostly irrelevant – have been a matter of grave concern for those to and from Afghanistan, which deserve the attention of the government.

The situation at the border, especially at the Torkham crossing, is one of the main reasons contributing to the rise of anti-Pakistani feelings among the Afghan people.

Almost all members of a delegation of experts from different fields who recently visited Afghanistan under the aegis of the Peshawar-based Institute of Area Studies (IRS) expressed similar sentiments and lamented the situation. at the border post.

Interestingly, there was more disorder on this side of the border than on the Afghan side.

Dr. Fazlur Rahman Qureshi, a seasoned academic, was overly critical of the things he observed at the border. He said it didn’t even look like a border. The prevailing disorder makes it difficult for people to cross the border in a respectable manner.

“The smell here is unbearable. There is no proper toilet system. The attitude of the authorities is rather insulting,” he said in an interview with The News.

Mehmud Jan Babar, a Peshawar-based journalist, said immigration facilities at border crossings around the world were meant to make people’s lives easier. “But here, the issue seems to be the reverse. The facility is used to mint money instead of providing assistance to travellers,” he remarked.

“I saw a number of authorities checking our passports, travel documents and luggage that had nothing to do with work,” he said.

He said that immigration was purely the work of the relevant wing of the Federal Investigation Agency and baggage screening was the duty of customs authorities.

“But here, National Logistics Cell (NLC) and Border Corps (FC) personnel can be seen checking people’s travel documents and luggage. Interestingly, the NLC has already been excluded from the practice by notification official, but they are still there to do a duty, which is not their job at all,” he said.

“See! It’s an international border. I saw the facilities on the Afghan side of the border much better than on our side. It looks like a prison, not a border crossing,” he said.

Fida Adeel, another media personality, who was also part of the delegation, called for an immediate ban on the use of batons by men in uniform on both sides of the border.

Security guards with batons shove travelers around like cattle, making their first impression at the border very unpleasant, he said.

The uniformed men were seen using sticks against children, including girls, who were trying to carry luggage across the border. This luggage transport, locally called ganda, is a regular activity at the border in which mainly children from poor families are involved.

Fida Adeel said there should be a separate lane for ordinary people and commercial vehicles. From this door, the people of the two countries will have a pleasant first impression and only then will they make progress towards improvement in other areas, he added.

“The Torkham border seems to be the biggest problem for everyone, especially for the Afghan government. Therefore, special attention should be given to solving this problem,” he suggested.

Mohammad Saad, an Islamabad-based businessman, observed that the immigration building, markets and taxi ranks on the Afghan side were much better than on this side.

Sudher Afridi is a senior journalist based in Landikotal who was of the opinion that everything was fine before the arrival of NLC and FC.

The political administration and the border authorities would amicably settle every problem in a pleasant way. But after the arrival of the two bodies, which have nothing to do with immigration and customs, things got worse beyond imagination, he said. He added that the NLC had started building a huge terminal near the border post, which affected businesses in the local community.

The problems of Afghan travelers have also multiplied, he added. The business of carrying luggage across the border in hands and trolleys was also affected, he said.

These baggage porters called gandamar in the local dialect were previously allowed to go to the Afghan customs counter and vice versa and that is their age-old business, he said. Now they are not allowed to cross the zero point.

Previously, some 20,000 to 25,000 people were engaged in different small businesses on both sides of the border and each earned 4,000 to 5,000 rupees a day. But that business has now stalled, he claimed.

Exports fell sharply due to border issues.

Previously, if 5,000-6,000 trucks crossed the border, the number has dropped to 500-600 now.

Jibran Shinwari, another reporter, said visa restrictions have also made people’s problems worse. He was correctly informed that the Afghans would receive a visa upon arrival, but the process could never be started, he said.

Also, it has become the most difficult task for Afghans to get a Pakistani visa. They allege they paid heavy bribes to relevant authorities through travel agents to obtain a visa, Jibran said.

Even after obtaining a visa, they face serious problems and insults when crossing the border, he added.

Only patients and students are allowed to obtain visas upon arrival after severe hardship, he said.

It has been generally observed that the disorder at the border and visa restrictions have led to an increase in human trafficking between the two countries, as influential people prefer to cross the border illegally instead of involving themselves in the judicial process. humiliating.

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