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Pakistan, Afghanistan relations nosedive as firing erupts at Torkham border

The Afghan side near the Torkham border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan in September 2021 (Photo: Saeed Ahmad/Xinhua/IANS)

Relations between South Asian neighbours Pakistan and Afghanistan hit another low after border security personnel fired at each other, reportedly killing one Pakistani soldier on Monday. The firing took place at the Torkham border crossing connecting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan with Nangarhar province in Afghanistan.

Tensions flared up on the border after Afghanistan closed the crossing on Sunday. In a tweet, Taliban commissioner at Torkham, Maulavi Mohammad Siddique said: “Pakistan has breached its commitments, therefore the Taliban have closed the gateway”. However, unconfirmed reports said that Pakistan has disallowed Afghan patients to visit Pakistan for treatment.

Afghan news agency Khaama reported that Pakistan had disallowed Afghan patients from entering Pakistan for treatment on Saturday. An agreement between the two countries says that 100 patients can visit Pakistan for treatment per day provided they have permission from Nangarhar provincial authorities.

The Torkham crossing is an old and a major trade route between the two countries allowing Pakistan to send its exports to Central Asian Countries as well.

The tense Afghan-Pakistan border has seen much violence between the Afghan Taliban militia and the Pakistani border forces. In the last few months the two countries have closed the crossing many times with violence flaring up intermittently.

The other vital border crossing – Chaman and Spin-Boldak, linking the restive Balochistan province of Pakistan with the Kandahar province in Afghanistan has also seen border closures and violence.

The two nations have seen their relations slide specially after the Taliban seized power in Kabul in August 2021 overthrowing the democratically elected government of President Ashraf Ghani. Pakistan has repeatedly alleged that terrorists based in Afghanistan are attacking its security forces and has threatened to launch cross-border strikes.

Pakistan’s border with Iran also witnessed violence recently when a Pakistani border patrol came under attack close to the border. Pakistan alleged that Baloch fighters attacked its soldiers from across the Iranian border, which was refuted by both the Baloch rebels and the Iranian embassy in Islamabad.

Along with Afghanistan, Islamabad’s relations with its close ally China have witnessed a marked decline in diplomatic relations. The deadly spiral of violence that has engulfed Pakistan has scared its all-weather friend Beijing which has cautioned its nationals in Pakistan to take care of their safety in an atmosphere of financial decline, political uncertainty and rising radicalisation in the country.

Also read: China unlikely to bite on fresh Pakistan assurances on safety of nationals