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NIAS Pakistan Weekly
Torkham border: Pakistan and Afghanistan relations

  PR Team

PR Commentary
Torkham border: Pakistan and Afghanistan relations
By Shamini Velayutham
Customs clearance agents, laborers, and members of local organizations held a protest demonstration. They said that the closing of the Torkham border was an economic murder of those involved in cross-border trade and other manual labor.

On 08 September, thousands of civilians were trapped, and hundreds of trucks were unable to transfer commodities between Pakistan and Afghanistan due to the main border crossing still being closed. The crossings were shut down after a fight with Taliban forces. Thousands of civilians, largely Afghans, are waiting to enter the Torkham border as hundreds of cars, some carrying perishable goods like fruits and vegetables, wait on both sides of the border. This has caused a substantial amount of trade between the two countries to cease. On 15 September, after talks, the border was eventually opened for trade and other purposes.

What happened?
On 06 September, Border security personnel from the two countries exchanged a lot of firing at one another's positions as Afghan officials started building a security post near to Pakistan's side of the border. The establishment of a new security station so close to the border crossing, according to Pakistani officials, was deemed to be completely unnecessary and to be in violation of the agreement reached between the two countries regarding the requirement for mutual discussion and agreement before any such development could take place. The isolated northwest Pakistani district of Chitral, which borders eastern Afghanistan and is situated about 400 kilometers north of Torkham, has also seen clashes and violent clashes between Pakistan and the Islamist Taliban in Afghanistan as a result of a significant influx of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants.

How did Torkham border come into existence?
Throughout history, Afghan and Turkic caravans, as well as the marching armies of mighty empires, have used this region. Most of them were traveling to Northern India and stopping at Peshawar and Lahore along the way. Chandragupta Maurya, Hsüan-tsang, Jayapala, Al-Biruni, Ibn Battuta, Babur, Humayun, Nader Shah, Ahmad Shah Durrani, Zaman Shah Durrani, Dost Mohammad Khan, and Akbar Khan are a few of the prominent regional historical leaders who are thought to have gone through Torkham.

Why is Torkham important?
The road, which connects Peshawar in northwest Pakistan to Jalalabad, the largest city in Nangarhar, and the path further to Kabul, is a vital lifeline for landlocked Afghanistan. The port city of Karachi in the province of Sindh transports products to Torkham. Five kilometers (3.1 miles) west of Torkham is the Khyber Pass summit. It is located alongside a vital supply route for the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. Over the past 20 years, tensions or political disputes have caused Torkham and other border crossings between the two nations to be frequently blocked. Most of Islamabad's more than 2,500 km border with Afghanistan has been walled.
 

Repercussions of the closure
The joint chamber of commerce and industry of Pakistan and Afghanistan's director, Ziaul Haq Sarhadi, stated that "the border closure was causing huge losses to traders and common people of the two neighboring countries." Against the protracted closure of the Torkham border, political activists, transporters, traders, customs clearance agents, laborers, and members of local organizations held a protest demonstration. They said that the closing of the Torkham border was an economic murder of those involved in cross-border trade and other manual labor. Additionally, protesters issued a warning that if the border crossing was not reopened within two days, an indefinite protest sit-in will be held at the Zero Point. The closing of the Torkham gate was partly a result of the uptick in cross-border attacks against Pakistan by militant’s hostile to Pakistan who were hiding in Afghanistan. The border was closed for a week, which resulted in significant financial losses for the transport and trading industries on both sides of the border and the loss of employment for hundreds of low-wage workers and day laborers.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch stated that leaders and fighters of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, operating out of Afghan soil. TTP is listed as a global terrorist organization by the United States and the United Nations. It is a known offshoot and close ally of the Afghan Taliban. "These elements are enjoying sanctuaries inside Afghanistan, as confirmed by the U.N. Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the Security Council in its most recent report," she stated. According to the cited U.N. report, TTP has been "gaining momentum in its operations against Pakistan and aspires to regain control of territory within the country." It was stated that there are at least 4,000 TTP members working on Afghan territory, and if the organization maintains a safe base in Afghanistan, it might pose a threat to the entire region. The Afghan Taliban, however, insist that they do not permit the TTP to wage terror against Pakistan or other nations from Afghan territory, saying that Pakistan should handle its own internal issues. The Pakistani border shutdown is unlawful and violates all agreements made in accordance with customary international law and norms, according to the Taliban-led foreign ministry of Afghanistan. They also charged Pakistan for keeping Afghanistan's cargo in the Karachi post.

Opening of Torkham border
On 15 September, following a firefight between the security forces of the two nations, a crucial border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan has reopened to both pedestrian and vehicular traffic after being shut down for nine days. An official in the Khyber district of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the Torkham border crossing is situated, Muhammad Anas, confirmed that immigration and customs officials had arrived and were carrying out their regular duties, and that both foot and vehicle traffic had been permitted to pass. The primary border crossing between the two countries, through which hundreds of people and vehicles pass daily, has officially opened, according to Afghan officials in Nangarhar province on the other side of the border.


PR Short Note
Justice Isa: Beginning of a New Era?
By Shamini Velayutham

On 18 September, The Supreme Court (Practice & Procedure) Act 2023, suspension of enforcement was implicitly overturned by the newly sworn in Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Qazi Faez Isa, who also ordered a live stream of the entire hearing by the full court bench consisting of all 15 judges. The fact that all private TV stations broadcasted the case was a first in the nation's legal history. Following the hearing, CJP Isa stated his intention to uphold transparency and accountability, stating that he does not desire such powers that would render him not liable. Additionally, he remarked that while he disliked some laws the sanctity of the legislation and the parliament must be respected.

How is Pakistan responding to Justice Isa?
An editorial in Dawn “The Isa epoch,” President Arif Alvi, who had earlier filed a referral against the Supreme Court judge due to alleged wrongdoing and non-disclosure of assets, administered the oath himself, which added to the event's ironic optics. It was a historic moment that communicated "a clear message of steadfastness" because the new chief justice's wife was standing by his side, according to one participant. The ceremony was telecasted live where the op-ed states it as a positive beginning and an indication that Chief Justice Isa is eager to forge a route firmly grounded in jurisprudential integrity rather than the shifting sands of populism that ruined his predecessor's term.

Similarly, an opinion in The News International “The Age of The Qazi,” expressed that CJP is the oldest among the republic's senior wisemen and hence there is no place for retaliation, hinting at the previous allegations against him and his family. The writer stresses that he must essentially conduct himself in a manner, as though there had never been any attempt to harm. The significance of his position should not be determined by the stature of who came before him but rather by the values and the aspiration of Pakistan's founders and its defenders, attorneys, constitutionalists, and judges. CJP Isa is responsible to sustain harmony inside the Supreme Court of Pakistan by elevating the judiciary as an institution above himself.
Finally, an editorial in The Express Tribune “Televised full court,” looked into the live telecast of the full court hearing against the Practices and Procedure Act. The writer applauded the Supreme Court's ability to participate in various conflicting discourses as well as block any attempts by the parliament to meddle in the business of the superior courts. It is a tremendous consolation that the judiciary has secured itself a promising role in the public domain by the landmark decision.Legal experts have applauded the Supreme Court's decision to broadcast its deliberations live on television, but they have also cautioned that the decision does have some setbacks. Lawyer Abdul Moiz Jaferii stated that the live streaming of court proceedings “is a brilliant start and the fulfilment of a long-standing position of CJ Isa which had come through during his petition against the reference against him. The majority had at the time decided that matters of fundamental importance ought to be televised, but that the modalities were to be decided by the administrative side of the Supreme Court, which never met on the issue. On 18 September the full court met on the administrative side before this hearing and perhaps the same premise was decided upon which allowed the televising to be possible”.Supreme Court advocate Basil Nabi Malik also lauded the Chief Justice for the “step towards greater transparency” but cautioned that “greater transparency should not be confused with greater publicity. Every judge must cater to the ends of justice without any care or consideration for any broadcast or lack thereof. Furthermore, every judge must be cautious not to get carried away with the access (the court) now enjoys with a greater audience, and in having such access, it must ensure it does not pander to the sentiments of the general populace more so than the facts of the case before it.” Lawyer Jahanzeb Sukhera calls the live streaming “an interesting experiment” and says it “gives the taxpayers an inside view of the functioning of the judicial branch and a clearer picture of proceedings”, he adds his cautionary advice to Malik's. Sukhera asserts that there are various concerns to consider, one of which “is that this may cause more camera induced grandstanding from both the bar and the bench. Instead of arguments and observations being limited to the extent necessary to decide a matter, we may slip into unnecessary theatrics. It may also increase the possibility of more judgments being rendered on the consideration of public perception.”

 

References
Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui & Maryam Nawaz & Sohail Khan, “I don’t want absolute powers: CJP Isa,” The News International, 19 September 2023;
Zebunnisa Burki, “
Lawyers praise move to live telecast proceedings but also highlight risks,” The News International, 19 September 2023;
Mosharraf Zaidi, “
The Age of The Qazi,” The News International, 19 September 2023;
Live from the SC,” The News International, 19 September 2023;
Nasir Iqbal, “
SC goes live as full court tackles controversial law,” Dawn, 19 September 2023;
The Isa epoch,” Dawn, 19 September 2023;
Hasnaat Malik, “
Justice Isa makes history on his first day,” The Express Tribune, 19 September 2023;
Televised full court,” The Express Tribune, 19 September 2023

 

 

 


PR Short Note

 

On Climate Change, where is Pakistan currently? Where does Pakistan want to go? And how does Pakistan get there?
By Dhriti Mukherjee

On 21 September, Ali Tauqeer Sheikh wrote an editorial in Dawn, titled “Climate action leadership,” where he discussed the climate challenges that Pakistan faces ahead of the COP28 summit in November 2023. In the background of Pakistan’s recent role as the chair of the G77+China at the last climate summit, the country is at a point where it must address climate challenges by increasing momentum in its efforts. Sheikh emphasised the significance of addressing four fundamental challenges: political and macroeconomic stability, institutional and policy reforms, climate finance architecture, and climate-smart actions at the provincial level. Focusing on this could bolster Pakistan’s “climate-resilient and low-carbon development journey.” In line with this, he raised three central questions.

Where is Pakistan currently?
The Global Stock-take (GST), conducted under Article 12 of the Paris Agreement, provided a comprehensive assessment of global climate efforts through 13 findings, centring around “mitigation”, “adaptation”, and “implementation.” While some positive achievements can be acknowledged, the author brought to light how “no discourse has taken place on the implications of the overshoot for Pakistan.” The GST’s conclusion that global commitments fall short of limiting global warming to 1.5°C highlights the urgency of more robust climate action.

Where does Pakistan want to go?
With 2030 as a pivotal year for climate stabilisation and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) implementation, Pakistan’s climate narrative must align with these global goals. The decisions made at COP28 will shape Pakistan’s future sectoral policies at both national and provincial levels. A well-thought-out response to the GST findings will determine international interest and support in bridging financial and investment gaps. Pakistan aspires to become a global leader in climate resilience and sustainability; thus, a strategic and comprehensive response to the findings of the GST is paramount.
 

How does Pakistan get there?
The editorial highlights a critical concern: the recent rise in global temperatures exceeding the 1.5°C threshold. Based on the recommendations of a report by the Overshoot Commission, this rise indicated the need for “accelerating emission reductions, more resources to adapt to climate impact, and scaling up CCS technologies.” The GST findings highlighted the complex relationship between climate and development, which are vital for Pakistan as it moves towards prioritising the “National Adaptation Plan (NAP), NDC, and climate policies” in its provinces.  Aside from this, the author also brought out the fact that global attention during the COP28 summit will be on “devastation caused by dam outbursts in Libya and the earthquake in Morocco.” The 2022 floods in Pakistan are not likely to “evoke emotional support,” and keeping this in mind, Pakistan must bring forth steps that it took as part of climate action. This includes conducting a Climate Change Council meeting for COP28 like the outgoing government had done for COP27, developing the provincial roadmaps for NAP implementation, “climate finance architecture and cataloguing climate actions on the ground.” These steps will carve the path for Pakistan in its “climate-smart development.
 


 

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