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Traders troubled after Taliban shut Afghan-Pakistan crossing

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — The main crossing on the Afghan-Pakistan border remained shut Tuesday for the third straight day, officials said, after Afghanistan's Taliban rulers earlier this week closed the key trade route and exchanged fire with Pakistani border guards.

The closure has added to increasing tensions between the two neighboring countries and concerns for traders, for whom the Torkham crossing is a key commercial artery. Trucks carrying various items also travel to Central Asian countries from Pakistan, through Torkham crossing point and Afghanistan.

On the Pakistani side of the border, in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, many merchants watched their trucks on Tuesday, loaded with fresh produce that could soon spoil, and waited for the crossing to reopen.

The Taliban closed Torkham on Sunday, angered by Pakistan’s alleged refusal to allow Afghan patients and their caretakers to enter Pakistan for medical care without travel documents. On Monday, Taliban fighters and Pakistani guards exchanged fire. There was no word on casualties on either side.

According to Ziaul Haq Sarhadi, a director at the Pakistan-Afghanistan joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, nearly 7,00 trucks carrying various goods — including perishable fruit and vegetables — were stuck and lined up, waiting at the Pakistani side.

Hundreds of Pakistanis with valid travel documents were also waiting near Torkham for the crossing to reopen, he added. “It is causing problems for traders on both sides.”

There were also vehicles waiting on the other side of the border, in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province, but the Taliban have not commented on the issue.

Siddiqullah Quraishi, the Taliban’s appointed official at the Nangahar’s information and culture department, said Pakistan has not been abiding by its “commitments, so the crossing point was shut down.” He did not elaborate but advised Afghans to avoid traveling to the crossing until further notice.

Closures, cross-border fire and shootouts are common along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Each side has in the past closed Torkham, and also the Chaman crossing in southwestern Pakistan, over various reasons.

The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 as U.S. and NATO troops were withdrawing from the country after 20 years of war. Like the rest of the world, Pakistan has so far not recognized Afghanistan’s Taliban government. The international community has been wary of the Taliban’s harsh measures, imposed since their takeover, especially in restricting the rights of women and minorities.

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Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez in Islamabad contributed to this story.