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Armed group stops Pakistani trucks en route Kabul

ISLAMABAD: An armed group on Sunday stopped Pakistani trucks from heading to Afghan capital Kabul after officials cleared the consignment to proceed to its destination, officials aware of the development said.
Earlier the Afghan security officials had stopped four trucks, carrying cement, shortly after the convoy crossed Ghulam Khan border that was opened on March 9 for trial operations for cross-border trade after nearly three years. Afghan security and custom officials cleared the trucks Sunday morning after a series of meetings between the Pakistani and Afghan officials over the past two days, an official told Daily Times. But trucks were stopped by a group known as ‘campaign group’ which, according to the locals, is backed by the US-led NATO forces.
“The check post where they were stopped is Tarkhobi Check Post and it is close to Khost,” a source privy to the development said. He said that the armed men at the check post told the truck drivers they would be informed about the decision at 12 noon Afghan time on Monday. He said rain and hailstorm in the area also affected the consignment. Four trucks, carrying almost 240 tons of cement, entered Afghanistan’s Khost province from Pakistan and were supposed to deliver the consignment in capital Kabul on Friday, however, the convoy was stopped by the Afghan border police at the first security check post nearly two kilometres from the Pakistani border, sources said. The trucks then returned to ‘zero point’ and remained there until Saturday evening, an official said. The Ghulam Khan border, the third major crossing point with Afghanistan in North Waziristan tribal region, was closed in June 2014 after the military launched a major operation against the Taliban and foreign militants in the region.
Sources said the trucks were not allowed to pass the first security check post until Saturday evening despite a series of talks between the Pakistani and Afghan officials. The Afghan officials, including deputy governor Khost province, who were involved in talks insisted that they had not received instructions from the officials in Kabul.
Pakistani officials earlier stated that they had already coordinated with the Afghan side, according to sources.
They said 10 more trucks with hundreds of tons of cement were supposed to enter Afghanistan on Saturday, but they could not get permission from the Afghan officials and they were stopped at Ghulam Khan on the Pakistani side. In a late Saturday development, the trucks were allowed to proceed only up to an Afghan terminal, some five kilometres from the Ghulam Khan border, but they were disallowed to enter Kabul, their original destination.
Governor Khost Hukam Khan told the BBC Pashto that Pakistani trucks have entered Afghanistan but he did not offer any comments as to why the trucks had been stopped since Friday. He, however, said Pakistan’s decision to open the border will increase cross-border trade. The political agent office in Miranshah said in a statement on Friday that departure of the convoy of trucks departed for Afghanistan formally marked resumption of the cross-border trade that was halted three years ago.
Political Agent Kamran Afridi said that the border was reopened for trial operations of the new system equipped with bio-metric identification system.
Traders welcomed reopening of the border and hoped that the move would increase cross-border activities in the region and also across the country. The reopening was earlier planned on March 7, but was postponed to ensure more facilities for traders and cross-border movement of the people.
In 2006, Pakistan introduced a passport and visa system for those entering the country via Torkham, the biggest crossing between the two countries. Officials said that the same system would be introduced at Chaman, the second largest point, and other notified crossings.
Pakistani officials had informed the Afghan authorities and traders as well as Pakistani traders in North Waziristan about the trial run of the border reopening. Officials said that the Ghulam Khan border point could become the biggest trade route as containers bringing Afghan transit goods from Karachi port would use this crossing instead of Torkham.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have a transit agreement, which was signed in 1960s and revised in 2010, allowing landlocked Afghanistan to import through the Karachi port.

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