PAKISTAN has taken a principled decision to ensure effective border control in the face of evolving situation in Afghanistan but the demands made by the Taliban while closing the Spin Boldak border crossing would prove to be a litmus test of the resolve of the Government to safeguard security interests of the country that would be threatened if plea of the Taliban for visa-free movement across the border is entertained by the authorities concerned.
The group’s shadow Governor for Kandahar said in a statement on Friday that the crossing will remain closed for all types of commuting, including transit and trade, for both sides, and pedestrians, until the Pakistani side leaves the gate open, morning to evening, for Afghans holding [Pakistani issued] migration cards or [Afghan] ID cards, scraping the visa requirement.
Pakistan has invested hugely on its border management project that has enabled the authorities to exercise greater vigilance against illegal crossings and smuggling as movements are allowed on the basis of visa and finger-printing.
However, the Taliban now want Pakistan to do away with formalities and allow free for all movement that might be of some advantage to the group in strengthening its position in Afghanistan but definitely not to Pakistan, which has suffered immensely both in terms of security and economy due to illegal movement and rampant smuggling.
The importance of the route can be gauged by the fact that it was used by 900 trucks a day before the Taliban seized its control and the closure would inflict economic losses on both sides.
In a related development, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday expressed satisfaction over the efficacy of the border management regime and measures taken to ensure internal security after he was briefed about various contingency plans in place to tackle the evolving security situation along Pak-Afghan border.
The PM along with Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited the corps headquarters, Peshawar, where he was apprised of the evolving security situation and we hope the briefing would have satisfactorily covered all aspects of the dramatic developments taking place in Afghanistan with repercussions for the international border.
The Taliban, who captured Zaranj, the provincial capital of Nimroz on Friday are expected to take control of most of Afghanistan in coming weeks and, therefore, it is time for our decision-makers to chalk out a clear-cut approach to safeguard interests of the country. Economic losses can be sustained but not the losses of security and image.