ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan have opened the Friendship Gate at Chaman-Spin Boldak border crossing after about a month, Pakistan’s envoy to Kabul said on Tuesday.
The Chaman border crossing, which links Pakistan’s Balochistan province with Afghanistan’s Kandahar region, remained for nearly three weeks, though the authorities opened it for one day during this period to allow the movement of people on humanitarian grounds.
Local business community told Arab News last week the closure of Friendship Gate, one of Pakistan’s major border crossing points with Afghanistan, had cost them about Rs150 million ($857,942) per day due to the suspension of trade in the area.
The crossing is also a vital revenue source for Afghanistan’s cash-strapped government.
Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmed Khan announced in a Twitter post on Tuesday that Chaman-Boldak gate was now open and pedestrians and goods carrying vehicles had started crossing the border.
“We welcome Afghan fruit trucks moving to Pakistan,” he wrote. “Urge all concerned on both sides to devote their energies to ensure smooth movement of people & trucks.”
A day earlier, on Monday night, the ambassador said on the social media platform that “the two sides will ensure facilitative movement of people & trade/transit vehicles.”
The Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry applauded the decision of the two countries in a statement after they opened the border to once again facilitate bilateral trade.
“The hiatus has caused huge financial losses and mental distress to border based businesses and farmers who witnessed ruining of their produce especially in this export season,” the trade body said, as it maintained “both sides must keep communication channels open to ensure that border remains open and a framework is developed to address routine as well as conditions arising out of force majeure closure of borders immediately.”
As Afghanistan sinks deeper into economic crisis, neighboring countries have become increasingly worried about a mass movement of refugees.
Pakistan’s foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood briefed Australia’s special representative on Afghanistan on urgent humanitarian and economic challenges facing Afghan people while stressing the need for immediate steps to alleviate their sufferings.
“The release of Afghanistan’s financial assets was another step that would be helpful in this regard,” the foreign office quoted him as saying in a statement.
The foreign secretary highlighted the measures taken by Pakistan to provide humanitarian assistance to the war-battered country, promote bilateral trade and economic cooperation, “regulate cross-border movement of people, foster further coordination among Afghanistan’s neighbors, and advance the regional connectivity projects.”