Torkham: lifeline to terrorists


WEB DESK: No state, particularly one in a state of war, can afford soft borders. Torkham crossing is one such border with Afghanistan through which pass some 10,000 to 15,000 people every day, majority of them unchecked for valid travel documents. Resultantly, nobody knows for sure where do go those who come to Pakistan in such a large number? If they go back after their visits, that too is in the realm of the unknown.

No wonder then the perpetrators of the carnage at Bacha Khan University last month could enter Pakistan unchecked. Concerned officials concede ‘it’s humanly impossible to check every Afghan entering Pakistan’. But that’s not acceptable, given that most of the violence generated in Pakistan, from Peshawar to Karachi, is the end result of this failing. If the government of Pakistan can legislate a law to regulate transport passing through various border posts with Afghanistan why not a law requiring documentation of individuals. Ideally, at the time parliament legislated the National Action Plan (NAP) it should have also passed a law to ensure a comprehensive management of the border with Pakistan.

It is too long a border, intensely porous given tough lay of the land and inhibited by Pashtun tribes straddling on its both sides that does make some sense, but not strong enough to prohibit hammering out a pragmatic approach to meet these challenges. If despite the very thorough military operation against terrorists in the tribal areas and in the labyrinths of Karachi incidence of terrorism refuses to abate the cause is this lifeline originating from the scantly checked border check-posts. In fact, military operations and fencing of border with Afghanistan should have gone apace. You can’t fill the pitcher with a hole at its bottom. Of course, after every serious terrorism incidence, like the ‘Rahdari’ (route permit) system revived in the wake of Bacha Khan University carnage, an effort is made to regulate the travel through Torkham. But, invariably, it collapses within days and the curse of illegal border-crossing lingers on.

Even if the Afghan government has certain reservations about fencing the common border – as it continues to misread the Durand Line Agreement – Pakistan should do it on its own. Fencing some 2,250-km-long border is expensive but over the time it has become a must-do compulsion. Not only has the unprotected common border served as safe haven to anti-Pakistan elements, it has also facilitated the easy flow of smuggled goods, lethal weapons and narcotics from Afghanistan. Isn’t the literally unchecked travel through Torkham a reason for the bordering Afghan province of Nangarhar to be so richly planted with terrorist outfits, including Daesh? According to prevalent practice, those crossing the border are supposed to have travel documents or “Proof of Registration’ issued by the Afghan commissioner for temporary residences.

But their number is insignificant as compared to those enter Pakistan without this or other travel documents, and then get lost in the country of nearly 200 million people. Fencing the common border would be perfectly legal and Pakistan’s very legitimate right given its misuse by terrorists and smugglers. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 also denies the right of “safe haven to those who finance, plan, support or commit terrorist acts or provide safe havens’. Presently, the travel between Pakistan and Afghanistan has a tinge of informality about it; instead of proper visas on passports cards are issued to travelers on the basis of national identity cards. Time has come to move out of this groove and adopt internationally accepted practice of stamping visas on legally issued passports.

Source: Business Recorder