Pakistan fences off from Afghan refugees

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Pakistan fences off from Afghan refugees: On the surface, it is almost common in this part of the Pakistan-Afghan border.

But a closer look reveals how much things have changed.

Pakistan fences off from Afghan refugees
Pakistan fences off from Afghan refugees

The tricolor flag of the Republic of Afghanistan was replaced by the white flag of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan and the bearded Taliban militants now holding the beard in place of the Afghan border security forces.

They now control Torcom – the busiest crossing with Pakistan.

A few days ago, hundreds of panicked Afghan civilians gathered here for days in despair for a way out.

Then the inevitable happened: a large number of Afghan police forces surrendered to the Taliban.

Pakistan is worried about a fighting spill over before the Taliban’s takeover, closing its lid on the border. But after a brief closure, it reopened for trade and restricted pedestrian movements.

On average, about 6,000-7,000 people travel daily between the two countries – but today 50 people do not stand on the Afghan side to enter Pakistan.

Pakistan fences off from Afghan refugees
An Afghan man with a baby crosses into Pakistan at Torkham ( Source : BBC )

This takes longer than usual. Pakistani security officials said they did not want any terrorists to enter in disguise as civilians. That is why they have made the border inspection process more rigorous.

Torkham has been a major factor in the influx of refugees into Pakistan for decades.

Now the number of those seeking Afghan asylum is very small.

The Taliban are not sending anyone out. Only merchants or those with valid travel documents are allowed to cross.
But that is not the only way to keep Afghan refugees away.

Amid increasing violence on the border in recent years, Pakistan has been fencing off Afghanistan. All border crossings are now heavily manned, making it impossible for Afghan refugees to enter without government permission.

Ahsan Khan, 56, was unloading his luggage from a taxi a few meters from the border. He moved to the Afghan city of Jalalabad.

“I have been traveling across this border since I was in school. It was time for my father to take us straight to Jalalabad without any checks,” Mr. Khan said.
Since June 2016, the Government of Pakistan has made valid passports and visas mandatory for all Afghans wishing to enter Pakistan.

“Mr. Khan asks how you can expect people to come to this border when there are people standing here trying to flee Afghan refugees.

Afghans fleeing to Pakistan often go to a small market a few kilometers from Torkham.

Owaid Ali has a small food stall. He said he had not seen Afghan refugees in the market since the Taliban seized the border.

“When the Taliban rapidly took over the cities a few days ago, the Afghans who came here told me how anxious they were to live under Taliban rule. But I do not know how they will escape that life now,” Mr Ali said.

Nearly three million Afghan refugees have not been registered and have been living in Pakistan for decades.

But now the Islamabad government has said it has reached its limit and cannot accept more people from the war-torn country, despite appeals from the UN refugee agency.

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