Quetta - After a 22-day closure, the Friendship Gate at Pak-Afghan border in Chaman was opened Saturday afternoon on humanitarian grounds to facilitate people during the holy month of Ramazan.

The crossing point was shut by Pakistan on May 5, following the attack of the Afghan border police on Pakistani census teams and soldiers escorting them in the divided frontier villages of Killi Luqman and Killi Jahangir.

The attack sparked a deadly firefight across the frontier, leaving at least eight civilians dead and an unconfirmed number of military casualties on both sides.

Afghanistan had viewed some of the villages visited by the Pakistani census takers as within their territory, but the two countries later agreed to use Google Maps to help settle the dispute. Later the census activity was resumed and completed on the Pakistani side of the divided villages.

Pakistan has opened Friendship Gate Chaman on humanitarian grounds in Ramazan on the request from Afghan authorities, said the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in a press release.

The statement said Pak troops had the area on its side of the frontier under control, "having pushed back Afghan Border police ".

It said that authorities have decided that ceasefire shall continue to be maintained but no border violation will be accepted. Pakistan troops will maintain their positions along the border in Killi Luqman and Killi Jahangir.

Balochistan Frontier Corps Scouts Commandant Colonel Usman confirmed that Chaman crossing has been opened and the both way movement of people and cargo restored.

A large number of passengers and trucks loaded with goods and containers were seen at the crossing point.

In a goodwill gesture, the Pakistan and Afghan officials opened the gate together at 3pm while pedestrians’ way was also formally opened on both sides, spreading a wave of jubilation among the traders and travellers on both sides.

The three-week closure of Friendship Gate inflicted heavy financial losses to the local market, gravely impacting the lives of people of Chaman who almost entirely depend on the bilateral trade for their livelihood. Pak-Afghan Transit Trade and Nato supplies also suffered heavily, causing huge economic losses on both side of the borer.

Earlier, a tribal jirga (council) represented by city elite and all political parties was held at FC Headquarter in Chaman wherein Quetta Commissioner Amjad Ali Khan, Deputy Commissioner Qilla Abdullah Qaiser Khan Nasar, FC Commandant Colonel Usman and District Police Officer Sajid Momand were also present.

Addressing the jirga, Sector Commander Brigadier Nadeem Sohail said that the displaced families of Killi Luqman and Killi Jahangir will rehabilitate to their homes only after they hold successful negotiation with the Afghan government.

He said the border was shut down for the security of Pakistani traders as they could have been harassed by the Afghan authorities after the May 5 clash.

The tribal leaders requested that they should be allowed to move to their homes for the month of Ramazan.

Quetta division commissioner appreciated the people inhabiting on the border saying they always supported the security forces.

“We will have to think of Pakistan first,” urged Amjad Khan and also prayed for the departed souls of martyred civilians and security personnel.

Agencies add:

The Durand Line, a 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) frontier drawn by the British in 1896 and disputed by Kabul, has witnessed increased tension since Pakistan last year began to reinforce the border for better control on cross-border movement to check militant infiltration.

Ethnic Pashtuns living in the remote region have traditionally paid little heed to the frontier and villages straddling it have mosques and houses with one door in Pakistan and another in Afghanistan.

The border is not the only area of dispute between the neighbours as Pakistan has long accused Afghanistan of sponsoring the Pakistani Taliban [TTP].

Pak-Afghan Transit Trade and Nato supplies also suffered heavily, causing huge economic losses on both side of the borer.

Earlier, a tribal jirga (council) represented by city elite and all political parties was held at FC Headquarter in Chaman wherein Quetta Commissioner Amjad Ali Khan, Deputy Commissioner Qilla Abdullah Qaiser Khan Nasar, FC Commandant Colonel Usman and District Police Officer Sajid Momand were also present.

Addressing the jirga, Sector Commander Brigadier Nadeem Sohail said that the displaced families of Killi Luqman and Killi Jahangir will rehabilitate to their homes only after they hold successful negotiation with the Afghan government.

He said the border was shut down for the security of Pakistani traders as they could have been harassed by the Afghan authorities after the May 5 clash.

The tribal leaders requested that they should be allowed to move to their homes for the month of Ramazan.

Quetta division commissioner appreciated the people inhabiting on the border saying they always supported the security forces.

“We will have to think of Pakistan first,” urged Amjad Khan and also prayed for the departed souls of martyred civilians and security personnel.

Agencies add: The Durand Line, a 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) frontier drawn by the British in 1896 and disputed by Kabul, has witnessed increased tension since Pakistan last year began to reinforce the border for better control on cross-border movement to check militant infiltration.

Ethnic Pashtuns living in the remote region have traditionally paid little heed to the frontier and villages straddling it have mosques and houses with one door in Pakistan and another in Afghanistan.

The border is not the only area of dispute between the neighbours as Pakistan has long accused Afghanistan of sponsoring the Pakistani Taliban [TTP].