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Thousands of trucks stranded as Pakistan and Afghanistan shut border points

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THOUSANDS of trucks were stranded at the busiest frontier crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan on Monday (15), Afghan officials said, days after border points were closed to trade in the latest row over document rules for commercial vehicle drivers.

Crossings between the two countries have been temporarily shut down in recent months after Islamabad last year launched a massive operation against undocumented Afghans living in Pakistan and tightened document requirements for Afghan nationals entering the country.

The Torkham crossing was closed to trade vehicles last Friday (12) night, border officials said, with around 3,000 trucks stranded on both sides of the border as of Monday, the cochairman of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Khan Jan Alakozai, said.

This “has not only inflicted losses on traders from both countries but has also resulted in an increase in market prices, as most of the cargo consists of food items that will perish if the crossing remains closed”, he said.

Both sides blamed the other for the latest shutdown at the Torkham crossing, which was extended to other border points since last Friday.

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The dispute centred on demands for drivers from either side to have visas and passports, a document many Afghans do not have.

A long line of trucks piled high with goods stood stranded down the road from Torkham on Monday afternoon, according to an AFP photographer.

A Pakistan customs official said on Monday that some 450 trucks were stranded on the Pakistani side of the Torkham crossing, with 600 more forced to stop along the road to the border.

Talks were underway between Islamabad and Kabul to resolve the issue, according to officials on both sides.

There was no breakthrough as of Monday night, Abdul Salam Jawad, spokesman for the Afghanistan Ministry of Industry and Commerce, said.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have had increasingly fraught relations in recent months.

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