Border reopened to Nato after 10 days
by Baqir Sajjad Syed
ISLAMABAD: The government announced on Saturday reopening of the Torkham supply route for Nato 10 days after it was blocked following an incursion by Isaf helicopters into Pakistan’s tribal area, which left two border guards dead.
Â“After assessing the security situation in all its aspects, the government has decided to reopen the Nato/Isaf supply from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border at Torkham with immediate effect,” Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said in a statement.
“Our relevant authorities are now in the process of coordinating with authorities on the other side of the border to ensure smooth resumption of the supply traffic.”
After the decision, the Frontier Corps and the Afghan National Army started coordinating with each other to clear the massive logjam near the Torkham border.
“The government has permitted reopening and it is now a matter of procedure,” an official said on being asked when the trucks would actually start crossing the border.
Nato sources said vehicles held up at the border could be on the move, at the earliest, by Monday because the Torkham crossing was normally closed on Sunday.
The US welcomed the decision. A spokesman for the Islamabad embassy, Richard Snelsire, said: “It is a positive development.”
The route was closed after the Sept 30 helicopter raid by Afghanistan-based western troops in Kurram Agency, which left two border guards dead and four others injured.
The closure was attributed to security threats to the convoys because of boiling anger in the country over the strikes.
It was always clear that the suspension would not be prolonged, but it made the US leadership nervous because of fears that it could cripple operations in Afghanistan.
Initial probe into the raid revealed that the helicopters of Nato-led International Security Assistance Force had violated Pakistan’s airspace a number of times and fired at a Pakistani border outpost after receiving warning shots from the guards. Isaf admitted that the killing of troops was avoidable.
The reopening of the route followed apologies over the incident by US Chairman Joints Chief of Staff Admiral Mullen, Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, American Ambassador Anne Patterson and Isaf Commander Gen David Petraeus to the Pakistan government, military and nation.
While the government saw a diplomatic and political triumph in the apologies by the US and Nato, the incident improved the public perception about the country’s leadership hitherto being seen as too pliant to US dictates.
A security official told Dawn that the suspension of supplies for just 10 days not only made the US and its allies realise the importance of Pakistan’s support in the war on terror, but it also conveyed to them that Pakistan’s sensitivities needed to be respected.
During the closure about 150 tankers were burnt in attacks claimed by the Taliban and 15 people lost their lives.
Agencies add: Some 2,500 to 3,000 trucks bringing supplies to US or other Nato troops in Afghanistan are on Pakistan’s roads at any given time.
“This business is getting too dangerous. The recent happenings have made us think about not working for Nato because we can’t put our lives in constant danger,” said trucker Shaukat Khan, who has been sitting at the Torkham crossing since the day it was closed.
“We are glad to know that the authorities have decided to reopen the crossing.”