If border crossings at Torkhum and Chaman have been closed as an expression of anger and outrage over the Jamatul Ahrar-claimed carnage at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar then it is understandable.
But one would be profoundly na�ve to believe that such a move would interrupt the flow of terrorists from across the Pak-Afghan border. Both the border crossings, as well a number of others on the common border, are manned by trained border security staff, fully equipped to foil a walk-through attempt by any terrorist.
One may ask why should anyone commissioned to carry out an act of sabotage or terrorism try entering Pakistan through the tightly controlled check-posts while there are scores of unguarded crossing points all along the long Pak-Afghan border.
Given a number of tribes straggle over both sides of common border thousands of ordinary folks crisscross the common border every day, and who knows the commissioned terrorist also joins these people. Scrutinising border-crossing is a huge challenge even in the best of situations, much less in case of Pak-Afghan border. In the past too these border crossings were closed, but did that help combat terrorism? But what it did is once again on display both at Torkhum and Chaman.
The closures have caused a deep human crisis and a serious setback to trade between the two countries. According to media reports, some 8,000 trucks loaded with goods, are stranded on both sides. Not that the Pakistani traders are opposed to any move to secure the border with Afghanistan; they do support the government, but also request the concerned authorities on both sides to devise some kind of mechanism which can serve both purposes: safe trade and foolproof security.
What hardships the border closures cause to the ordinary people the saga of an Afghan group stranded at Torkhum makes a painful reading. Unable to go over to their country they had taken refuge in a Landi Kotal mosque. But they were forced out of there also, forcing them to raise slogans asking the local people ‘you don’t want us to stay even in the house of God’.
In essence, fighting Afghanistan-based terrorism and closing the border crossings with that country are two separate things. Since the Afghan government has not done anything to root them out of its soil one would have no caveat against bombing the terrorists’ sanctuaries in Afghanistan. It is in there that terrorists are trained and dispatched to Pakistan. Such an action falls in the definition of self-defence and is now almost a norm, abundantly undertaken by the United States which carries out drone attacks against suspected hideouts of terrorists not only in this region but elsewhere.
Then it is also a fact that there are terrorists’ sleeping cells, and facilitators of terrorists created and bred by the hostile neighbours both on east and west of Pakistan. That some of the Afghan refugees who have enjoyed local hospitality for years and decades to act as actors and collaborators at the behest of their foreign masters is another bitter reality.
Though ordinary Afghans as such are not party to these anti-Pakistan vicious game it is they who often pay the price. It is our hope the closures would be lifted soon in the larger interest of people and bilateral trade.