Afghans travelling via Chaman face increased harassment
KANDAHAR (Pajhwok): Residents of southern provinces say Pakistani police have increased harassing Afghans who cross into the country through the Spin Boldak-Chaman border.
But these travelers complain Pakistani police, who usually harass Afghans visiting the country, have recently intensified torturing, taking money and even beating them under different pretexts.
This situation has also affected businesses in Spin Boldak border town.
Akhtar Mohammad, 35, a resident of Kandahar City, the capital of southern Kandahar province, a few days ago visited Quetta city, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, for treatment of his father.
He told Pajhwok Afghan News about the problems he faced during the journey from the border crossing to Quetta.
Following the border’s reopening after a 14-day closure by Pakistan, security forces in the neighouring country escalated harassing and teasing Afghan travelers, he said.
Mohammad said the treatment of his father, a heart patient, was not possible in Kandahar and he had no option but to take him to Quetta, but they went through many hardships on the way.
He said they lacked legal travelling documents, a pretext Pakistani police used to demand money from him and did not let them go for hours.
Akhtar Mohammad said Afghans had historically paid money to be allowed to travel in Pakistan, but now they were not allowed to travel if they had no visa.
He saw the increased harassment of Afghans as a means to force them into obtaining visas before arriving in the neighbouring country.
“But it is hard, still millions of Afghan refugees are living in Pakistan and they and their relatives back in Afghanistan have to travel between the two countries on this route (Spin Boldak-Chaman).”
Abdul Shakoor, who lives in Wish bazaar area of Spin Boldak border town and owns a vehicle spare parts business, confirmed Akhar Mohammad’s account.
He told Pajhwok Afghan News after the border’s reopening Pakistani security forces were now asking for passport and visa. He said Afghans lacking passport and visa were currently being intimidated, tortured and forced into paying money.
He said thousands of people and large and small vehicles loaded with food and non-food items crossed the border on a daily basis and there were also many people who had businesses in Spin Boldak but they lived in Chaman.
But these people were allowed to enter Afghanistan after showing Pakistani identity cards and Afghans lacking Pakistani visas were not allowed, according to Shakoor.
Even some Afghans who were able to reach Quetta for treatment and other needs after enduring all the hardships were arrested and deported, he said.
“This situation has a great impact on the business in Spin Boldak. Businesses are not the same they had been in the past,” he said, adding his own sales had dropped from previous 50,000 and 80,000 afghanis to 10,000 and 15,000 afs a day.
Similarly, fresh fruits exporters and importers of food and non-food items from Pakistan have to apply for Pakistani visa before travelling to that country.
Fresh fruits traders representative in Kandahar, Haji Nanai Agha, said not only common people travelling to Pakistan were being harassed, but problems were also being created for Afghan trades by Pakistani security forces.
He said he had asked Afghan traders to make passport and obtain Pakistani visa before travelling there, but the problem was that the Pakistani consulate in Kandahar used to issue one month visas to traders.
He said their demand had been that traders should be issued six-month visas because the export of grapes and pomegranates took three months each and this way they would not face any problem.
Nanai said the six-month visa problem had been resolved with the Pakistani consulate with intervention of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the provincial administration.
Mohammad Ali Dawari, border police official in Spin Boldak, said visa and passport was one of Pakistan’s conditions for reopening the Friendship Gate.
But this condition was unacceptable because some 10,000 people from Chaman town alone daily arrived in Spin Boldak for businesses, he said, adding people living on both sides of the border had blood relations and had to visit each other.
He acknowledged Afghans were harassed during their visit to Pakistan. The border police official said they had time and again discussed the matter with their Pakistani counterparts.
The spokesman for Kandahar governor, Samim Khpalwak, said they had heard about the harassment of Afghans on the Spin Boldak-Chaman route at the hands of Pakistani security officials.
He said no one had so far officially complained to the provincial government in this regard, but they were trying to resolve the matter through diplomatic channels.
Pakistan closed the border gate last month after some Spin Boldak residents staged a protest and allegedly torched a Pakistani flag. The gate was reopened after a series of meetings and talks between the two sides.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.