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  • Apr 4th, 2017
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The country witnessed a decline in terror attacks to 5 during the 33 days the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan remained closed following Sehwan Sharif massacre. According to data compiled by Business Recorder from independent sources, there were a total of five terror attacks in which 17 including personnel of the security forces were killed during the period from February 16 to March 20, 2017 when the Pakistan-Afghanistan border was closed for all kinds of communication.

On February 21, at least seven were killed and as many as 25 others were injured when a terrorist wearing a suicide vest attacked the session's court in Charsadda, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa - the first major attack following closure of the border. It was followed by separate small scale terror attacks until March 17 when the prime minister directed that the borders be reopened on March 20 as a "good-will gesture" but to make it mandatory for Afghans to have valid visas for entry into Pakistan, as well as undertake strict measures on the border.

Pakistan has been holding the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its splinter terror outfits who have taken refuge across the border in Afghanistan responsible for the attacks. According to sources, the government has conveyed to Afghan government that Pakistan will undertake effective measures such as fencing the 2400-kilometer long porous border to ensure security of its people and prevent illegal cross border movement.

"The security of our people has always been the top priority and Pakistan has conveyed this to the Afghan side: that we would prevent the illegal movement through measures like fencing the border", an official source said. He said that this was conveyed to the Afghan government by Adviser to Prime Minister Sartaj Aziz during his meeting with Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar held in London on March 16, 2017, which was followed by reopening of the border.

However, the two-way trade has notably suffered even after the reopening of the border. Official sources said the losses to the country's exchequer was Rs 250 million on imports from Afghanistan via Torkham crossing point alone in 16 days when the border was closed.

Representatives of the trade bodies claimed that around 70 percent trade has already shifted to Iran's Chabahar-Bandar Abbas port due to frequent border closures and other strict measures.

Talking to Business Recorder, Zia-ul-Haq Sarhadi, vice-president of Afghanistan-Pakistan Joint Chamber of Commerce, said that bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan was $2.5 billion which has declined to approximately $1.5 billion because of the frequent border closure.

He pointed out that there were still around 2,000 containers stranded on Torkham border due to the new policy of a visa for entry into Pakistan, adding that majority of the drivers associated with cross border trade have no passports. He said that the representatives of the trade bodies have requested the government to give at least a two-month period to the transporters/drivers to make their passports and during the period all the stranded containers be given permission to enter the country.

"We will never want the government to compromise on the security of the people and the country...Make whatsoever security arrangements it wants and we will fully cooperate but it also needs to at least give clearance to the stranded containers at the border", he said.

Sarhadi further pointed out that as many as 10,000 people are associated with trade on Torkham border and the government should also keep in view the problems facing them. However, according to security analyst Brigadier Mehmood Shah (Retd), effective border management is the need of the hour and security of the people and the country remains the first priority of any government. He said that there were confirmed reports of the security and intelligence agencies that the terrorists involved in various high profile attacks including the December 16, 2014 Army Public School (APS) had crossed into the country via Torkham border.

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