Islamabad, 2 September 2021 (dpa/MIA) – Pakistan on Thursday said it would temporarily close a major border crossing with Afghanistan, amid an influx of refugees fleeing Taliban rule in their country.
“We will close the Chaman crossing for a while,” Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said in Islamabad, without specifying how long the border would be shut.
The Chaman crossing links Pakistan’s south-western province of Balochistan with Spin Boldak in the Afghan province of Kandahar, the birthplace and stronghold of the Taliban.
Thousands of refugees have been crossing the border through Chaman every day since the Taliban reconquered Afghanistan last month.
Thousands more are desperately waiting in the town of Wesh Mandi on the Afghan side of the border in order to cross into Pakistan, according to officials and rights activists.
Pakistan, already home to 2.7 million Afghan refugees who have fled since the 1970s, said it cannot afford another influx, citing economic and social concerns.
An official at a government department that deals with refugees told dpa last week that at least up to 800,000 new refugees were expected to come to Pakistan via land routes.
Pakistan has around a dozen crossings along its 2,500-kilometre border with Afghanistan.
Torkham, the second major border crossing that links the north-western city of Peshawar with Nangarhar in Afghanistan, is already closed.
There is no influx at Torkham, Rashid said at a ceremony.
The Taliban swiftly took power in a series of offensives last month, conquering most Afghan cities and provinces without resistance.