Pakistan Shuts Down Border Following Conflict With Afghanistan

In September 2023, Pakistan condemned the Afghan Taliban administration for building illegal border structures and engaging in violence, forcing Pakistan to close the main border with Afghanistan. Afghanistan is accused of actively building an unlawful structure on its neighbour’s territory, leading the militaries on both sides to fire at each other, with Pakistan making the decision to close the border between the two nations on Wednesday. This has resulted in hundreds of trucks transporting goods, such as fruits and vegetables, being stranded alongside thousands of travelers. 

Government officials on both sides of the conflict have spoken out in response to the recent event, both condemning the other. Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, released a statement saying that Afghan troops “resorted to indiscriminate firing, targeting Pakistan military posts, damaging the infrastructure at the Torkham Border Terminal, and putting the lives of both Pakistani and Afghan civilians at risk, when they were stopped from erecting such unlawful structures,” rather than opting for a peaceful resolution. Likewise, the Taliban Foreign Ministry released a statement blaming Pakistani troops for opening fire on Afghan forces who were simply doing “repair work on an old security post constructed several years ago” which they were permitted to do. In response to Pakistan’s statement, the Taliban warned that closing the border could “adversely affect” the relationship between the two nations, threatening tension that could escalate into violent conflict. 

The tensions between Pakistan and Taliban-controlled Afghanistan could lead to devastating consequences if the conflict continues unresolved, which has already led to the death of four Pakistani soldiers, according to Al Jazeera. To prevent further harm, Pakistani and Afghan officials must work through their political tensions in a peaceful manner, as both sides rely on the commercial goods that are currently stranded by the closing of the border. Protests have erupted on both sides of the border, as the civilians rely on these goods and fear the consequences these escalating tensions could cause, both economically and politically. 

The tensions between the two bordering countries are not new, but have only increased since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in 2021, twenty years after being ousted by the United States. The 2,600 kilometer border between the two nations has been the subject of tensions for decades, dating back to British colonial rule, as Afghanistan has long refuted Pakistan’s inheritance of the international border when the nation gained independence in 1947, according to Reuters. The festering dispute has caused protests in both nations, as civilians urge for a peaceful resolution, but has also brought to light the history of the rivalry. Afghan protestors have argued that Pakistan is notorious for closing the Torkham border in times of tension, causing economic issues on both sides of the border. This long-simmering conflict must find a more peaceful resolution soon, in order to bring stability for both nations.  

The encroachment of Pakistan by Afghan troops and the reaction of violence by both sides is not a solution to the conflict at play, as both sides continue to blame the other, condemning them for their behavior, which will only cause the rivalry to escalate. The effects of this tension do not only impact the government officials involved, as civilians and travelers on both sides have been affected by the closure of the border, along with the disrupted economy.  The continuation of this escalating violence could have even more harmful effects than currently, and the two nations must work toward a peaceful resolution.