Pakistan reopens border with Afghanistan on ‘humanitarian grounds’

Pakistani authorities reopened the main Chaman border crossing at Afghanistan's request after shutting it down earlier this month when the two sides traded fire there, killing 15 people on both sides, the military said Saturday.

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Pakistani authorities reopened the main Chaman border crossing at Afghanistan’s request after shutting it down earlier this month when the two sides traded fire there, killing 15 people on both sides, the military said Saturday.

The move comes on the first day of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in Afghanistan. In a statement, the Pakistani military said the border was reopened Saturday on “humanitarian grounds.” Kabul welcomed the decision.

The statement said Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to maintain a ceasefire in the border town of Chaman, where nine Pakistanis and six Afghans were killed on May 5.

Pakistan says the violence began when Afghan forces opened fire on census workers and troops escorting them. Kabul blames Pakistan for initiating the gunfire.

Mohammad Sharif Gharzi, an official from the Afghan passport department at Spin Boldak, said after negotiations between officials from Afghanistan and Pakistan the border reopened around 4 p.m. local time on Saturday.

“We welcome the opening of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan at Spin Boldak,” said Gharzi.

He added that given the pressure on locals of fasting during Ramadan, this was “great news for all”.

The so-called “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 began trenching along it last year.

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 announcement of the border opening comes as officials in another part of Balochistan said Iranian forces had fired across the border at a convoy of traders in Panjgur district, killing one man.

Abdul Jabbar, an administrator in the district, said the incident would be raised at the upcoming flag meeting of border officials from both countries.

Relations between the neighboring countries have been tense since April when eight Iranian border guards were killed in clashes with armed rebels in Sistan-Baluchistan province. Iranian authorities alleged the attack was carried out by militants hiding in Pakistan.

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