Islamabad, Oct 23 (EFE).- Protests continued for a third day near a border crossing on Monday against the Pakistan government’s restrictive travel policy for Afghanistan.
The government has said it would allow people to cross the border only if they carried passports and valid visas from Nov. 1, the day when Pakistan intends to start deporting any living illegally in the country.
The decision has ignited protests near the Chaman crossing point, which is the second busiest crossing between the two nations, located in the Balochistan province.
Jaffar Khan, an official at the Chaman Deputy Commissioner’s office, told EFE that thousands of protesters have staged a sit-in around 4 km away from the border crossing near Chaman.
The protesters are demanding that the government reverses its decision to make a passport and visa mandatory for crossing the border.
Khan said the protesters are mainly Pakistanis who routinely cross the border for small-scale trade purposes.
Currently, there are no visa restrictions for Afghans or Pakistanis residing along the border.
People from both sides frequently engage in trade, moving goods across the border without requiring visas.
The decision prompted workers and supporters of various local trade unions to stage sit-in protests.
They strongly oppose the new entry and exit requirements via passports.
“We do not accept entry or exit through passports and want the old way of trade of carrying goods in hands,” Olas Yar, a spokesman for All Parties Tajir Laghri Itehad, told EFE.
He said the sit-in would continue until their demands were met.
Yar claimed that more than 25,000 people cross the border daily. “If the new policy is not withdrawn, all these people will die of hunger.”
He said people with relatives living on both sides of the border would be affected by the new visa policy.
Balochistan government spokesperson Jan Achakzai contended that the protesters were engaged in illegal smuggling activities.
He said that the government was trying to give them alternative employment.
“The government wants legal business because smuggling funds terrorism and provides financial benefits to 90 percent of smugglers and other networks,” he said. EFE