Conflicts & War

Pakistan speeds up fencing on Afghan border amid Taliban offensive

Torkham, Pakistan, Aug 3 (EFE) .- The Pakistan army said on Tuesday it is about to complete fencing on its border with Afghanistan in an effort to secure the porous boundary from infiltration by militants and stop the possible entry of Afghan refugees, as the neighboring country has been witnessing intense fighting between the Taliban and government forces.

“We have completed 90 percent of fencing on the 2640-kms (1,640 miles) long Afghan border and the rest will be completed by the end of summer,” Rizwan Kayani, the commander of Khyber Rifles – responsible for border security in the area – told journalists in a briefing near the “zero line.”

Pakistan is home to over three million Afghan refugees and Prime minister Imran Khan had already warned that his country “cannot afford” the influx of more refugees in case a full-fledged civil war begins in Afghanistan.

The army said on Tuesday that currently no people were being allowed to cross the border because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the “current situation in Afghanistan.”

“If civil war starts (in Afghanistan) then it’s up to the government, if they allow refugees or not but we have secured our border in a way that no one can enter now, the way they were (entering) before,” Kayani told EFE.

Before the fencing started in April 2017, there was unrestricted movement across the border and pedestrians were allowed to enter and exit Pakistan without any regulations and visa check.

However, under the new border management system, Afghans are required to secure a visa to enter Pakistan.

“Before the fencing there were 78 formal and informal crossing points, which have now been reduced to just five, out of which three are used for the Afghan transit trade,” said the military officer.

The security situation in Afghanistan has impacted the pedestrian and cargo movement on the Torkham border crossing, which sees 65 percent of trade between the two countries.

Kayani said the number of Afghans returning to their native country had dropped from over 7,800 in the month of January to just 750 in July.

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