Pakistan to open border for stranded Afghan nationals

A man walks past an empty bus terminal near the closed Pakistan-Afghanistan border amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, in Torkham some 54 kms from Peshawar on March 16, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 05 April 2020

Pakistan to open border for stranded Afghan nationals

  • On Kabul’s request, the border crossings will briefly reopen from April 6 to 9
  • Pakistan sealed its border with Afghanistan on March 16 following the Covid-19 outbreak

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan announced on Saturday it would briefly reopen its borders with Afghanistan to allow stranded Afghan nationals to return home, the foreign office said.
On March 16, the coronavirus outbreak prompted Pakistan to seal borders with its neighbors as part of stringent containment measures against Covid-19. The border closure affected huge numbers of Afghans in Pakistan for various reasons including trade, visiting families and seeking better medical treatments-- all of who were abruptly stranded.
But next week, at Kabul’s special request, Torkham and Chaman land border crossings with Afghanistan will be opened “for a specific period” between April 6 to 9 to facilitate Afghan nationals, the FO statement said.
“At the special request of the Government of Afghanistan and based on humanitarian considerations, Pakistan has decided to allow the exit of Afghan nationals in Pakistan wishing to go back to their country,” the FO statement read.
According to the latest tally from both countries, five people have died from coronavirus in Afghanistan and 270 have tested positive so far. In Pakistan, confirmed cases crossed 2,700 on Saturday with 41 reported deaths from the disease.
The foreign ministry added that as a neighbor and in view of fraternal bilateral relations, Pakistan remained “in abiding solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, particularly at this time of global pandemic.”
Earlier on March 20, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan allowed Chaman border to open briefly, to facilitate the flow of foodstuff and perishable commodities to Afghanistan.


“Ground zero” operation underway against militant hideouts near Pakistan’s border with Iran 

Updated 25 sec ago

“Ground zero” operation underway against militant hideouts near Pakistan’s border with Iran 

  • Pakistani intelligence officials, locals and a militant spokesman confirm latest operation in Balochistan to combat violence on shared border
  • Officials say raids being carried out in several areas, particularly against militants hiding in Kecch, Panjgur and Gwadar areas

DUBAI/ KARACHI: A major “intelligence-based operation” is ongoing against militants hiding near Pakistan’s border with Iran in the southwestern Balochistan province, Pakistani intelligence officials, local witnesses, have said, in the latest attempt to combat violence on the 900-kilometer shared frontier. 
Over the years, Iran and Pakistan have accused each other of not doing enough to stamp out militants allegedly sheltering across the border. In the most recent attack that has caused friction between the two nations, six Pakistani security personnel were killed in a bomb attack on a paramilitary Frontier Corps vehicle, the army’s media wing said in a statement on May 19. Six Pakistani soldiers were also killed in a roadside bomb attack in Balochistan on May 8.
Several militant groups are active in Balochistan, Pakistan’s biggest but poorest province. Much of the violence in the past has been blamed on, or claimed by, ethnic Baluch separatists.
Baloch Khan, a spokesperson for the Baloch Raaji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS), an umbrella group of Baloch insurgent groups, confirmed in a media statement last month that a “Pakistan army operation” was ongoing and soldiers were surrounding and raiding remote villages. However, he said no commanders or fighters of BRAS had been killed in the attacks. 
An intelligence official, who declined to be named, told Arab News the operation code is “Ground Zero Clearance Operation.” Two additional intelligence officials confirmed an operation was ongoing. Two local witnesses in the Mand area of Kech district also confirmed “actions” in their area. 
In a Twitter post on May 23, a pro-government politician from Balochistan, Nawabzada Jamal Khan Raisani, said the Pakistan army had launched “a sweeping operation” against the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) along the Pak-Iran border. Both groups are part of the BRAS umbrella, along with the Baloch Republican Army and the Baloch Republican Guards.
“The action began two nights ago [May 21], with a string of terrorists neutralized and hideouts busted,” Raisani said. 
Speaking to Arab News, Raisani said a senior BLF commander, Abdul Hameed alias Ghazin Baloch, was among two dozen militants killed in the ongoing operation, which he said was led by soldiers of the Pakistan army and Fortier Corp. as well as intelligence officers. 
The media wing of the Pakistani military and the foreign office declined comment for this article. Ijaz Ahmed Shah, the federal interior minister, said his team would respond to emailed questions but no reply had been received until the time of press. 
Balochistan Home Minister Mir Zia Ullah Langove did not respond to specific questions about the operation “for security reasons” but said: “We have taken effective actions.” 
Speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media on the issue, one intelligence officer based in Turbat said a “bank of targets” had been gathered by officials over many weeks, and raids were now being carried out in several areas, particularly against militants hiding in the border areas of Kecch, Panjgur and Gwadar.
Pakistan began fencing its 900-km border with Iran in May last year, which had become a source of “frustration” for militants, the intelligence official said, leading them to plan more attacks. 
Last month, Pakistan’s military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa spoke to his Iranian counterpart Major General Mohammed Bagheri via telephone, and discussed border fencing, the improvement of border terminals and enhancing security, among other issues, according to a statement from the army’s media wing. The two officers also discussed recent attacks on Pakistani troops near the border. 
On April 20 last year, just days after militants killed 14 bus passengers in an attack along the Iran border, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the insurgents behind the attack were based inside Iran, calling on Tehran to take action. The attack had been claimed for BRAS.
“The training camps and logistical camps of this new alliance [BRAS]... are inside the Iranian border region,” Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad. Iran denied any state involvement.
Just days after Qureshi’s comments, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said during a televised news conference with the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, in Tehran for a visit, that the two nations would form a joint quick reaction force to combat militant activity on their shared border.
“We agreed to increase the security cooperation of the two countries, our border forces, our intelligence forces,” Rouhani said. “And also to form a joint quick reaction force on the border of the two countries for fighting terrorism.”