White flags waved as Pakistan, Afghanistan agree on ceasefire

* Border authorities of both countries hold negotiations at Torkham, following which construction work on gate resumes

White flags waved as Pakistan, Afghanistan agree on ceasefire

PESHAWAR: Peace was restored at the Pak-Afghan Torkham border on Wednesday.

The area remained calm, but tense amid resumption of construction work on a check-post on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line that triggered exchange of fire between the Afghan and the Pakistani security forces late on Sunday.

According to a Political Administration official, white flags were raised on both sides of the border late in the day on Wednesday. “Construction work on the gate started at 9am and it was halted after 11am to allow the fasting labourers to get some rest in the hot weather. No incident of firing took place, as work resumed later in the evening,” he said.

Another development of the day was a telephone conversation between Afghanistan Ambassador to Pakistan Dr Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal and Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz. It was learnt that the two officials agreed on a ceasefire and laid stress on the need for resolving the Torkham border issue through dialogue.

Diplomatic sources said that Zakhilwal also met high-ups of the Pakistan Army at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. The ambassador returned to Pakistan on Wednesday after attending the national security conference in Kabul.

It seems that peace will finally be restored after three days of tense situation at the border that has seen injuries to a number of security personnel and civilians on both sides. A Pakistani Army officer and at least two Afghan Border Police personnel were killed in the fighting.

The Torkham border town and nearby areas witnessed a security high alert on Wednesday, as curfew remained intact for the third consecutive day. The Torkham bazaar as well as the bazaar across the border remained closed and only security personnel of both countries patrolled the roads.

Businesses were still closed, as the border remained closed for all kinds of movement. Hundreds of daily wagers and people associated with different types of businesses did not resume their routine activities. “I have a small shop of used vehicle parts across the border in Afghanistan. It is third day that my shop is closed. I hope it’s still intact and everything inside is safe,” said Riaz Afridi of Khyber Agency.

Similarly, hundreds of trucks loaded with various types of goods, including vegetables and fruits, destined for Afghanistan and Pakistan were unable to continue their journey towards their destinations. Trucks bound for different Afghan cities were unloaded at Peshawar, while those coming to Pakistan were reportedly emptied at Jalalabad.