Islamabad/Kabul, Feb 20 (EFE).- Afghanistan and Pakistan Monday closed the main border crossing between them after an exchange of fire amid soaring ties between the Afghan Taliban and Islamabad.
At least one Pakistan border guard was injured in the border clash near the Torkham crossing on Sunday night, even as the intermittent exchange of fire continued until Monday morning.
A Pakistani security officer told EFE on condition of anonymity that the clash erupted after “Pakistani border forces banned the entry of unnecessary attendants with patients coming from Afghanistan.”
Pakistan issues visas to Afghan patients on a priority basis as the war-torn country has limited and below-par healthcare facilities.
Afghan Taliban officials also confirmed the closure of the Torkham border crossing.
The Taliban administration said it shut down the border after Pakistan reneged on its promise to facilitate smooth movement along the main crossing between the two countries.
“The commitments were regarding transit facilitation and medical visas,” provincial government spokesperson Quraishi Badloon told EFE.
The Pakistani official said they closed the border crossing for all traffic and pedestrian movement, including transit trade.
Unverified videos on social media showed people running for shelter amid a roar of gunshots.
The critical border point is the largest crossing facility between the two countries, providing road access from the Karachi seaport to landlocked Afghanistan.
As per official data, 65 percent of travelers from the two countries cross through Torkham, which connects the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan.
The crossing point is in the Pakistani city of Torkham along the Grand Trunk Road on the international border.
The two neighbors share decades of the border dispute.
Clashes on the Afghan-Pakistan border have occurred for years and continued after the Islamabad-backed Taliban seized power in Kabul in 2021.
At least six civilians died when Afghan Taliban forces opened fire on the Pakistani side using heavy weapons in December last year.
Afghanistan does not accept the boundary between the two countries as an international border calling it the Durand Line.
Pakistan recognizes the 2,640-km-long border as an international boundary and has erected a barbed wire along it.
In the past, there have been some incidents of the Taliban fighters uprooting some parts of the wire.
After the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021, there were hopes that Pakistan would have better ties than previous governments with Kabul.
Pakistan has demanded the de facto Taliban government act against militants allegedly hiding in Afghanistan.
However, since coming to power, the Afghan Taliban have not taken any such action.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Saturday again urged the Taliban to “demonstrate the will and the capacity to take on terrorist groups” operating from Afghanistan amid “an uptick in terrorist activity in Pakistan since the fall of Kabul.”
In response, the Taliban foreign ministry said that Pakistan should raise issues in private and not at public forums.
“We advise Pakistan to discuss bilateral issues face-to-face with the Afghan government, instead of complaining at international conferences,” foreign ministry spokesperson Abdul Qahar Balkhi said in a statement.
Pakistan has witnessed a surge in insurgent violence since the Islamist regime seized power in Kabul.
The troubled Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) provinces bordering Afghanistan have seen many violent attacks blamed on banned Baloch separatists and the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or the Pakistani Taliban.
The Pakistani Taliban is not linked directly with the Afghan Taliban, but the two Islamist movements share their ideologies.
The TTP is an umbrella group of several armed organizations formed in 2007 to establish an Islamic state in Pakistan.
Since its inception, the group has carried out a brutal campaign of attacks across the country and killed thousands of people. EFE