Afghans perish at border town as Pakistan refuses to let any more refugee in
Thousands of Afghans families are faced with a dire situation as they make desperate attempts to cross the dusty border town of Spin Boldak in search of greener pastures in Pakistan.
While the Taliban and Pakistan are said to have supported each other over the years, the recent humanitarian crisis unfolding along the border is creating deep fissures between the neighbouring powers. Pakistan border officials have refused to let anyone move into its part of the land citing security issues even as Afghans cry and beg for a chance to enter the country for some life-saving treatment or a reunion with a loved one.
According to an article in the New York Post, even cross-border trade has remained shut for days. The border crossing connects Spin Boldak in Kandahar province with Pakistan’s Chaman and Quetta.
Earlier this month, at least one person died during a stampede when Pakistan temporarily closed the Chaman crossing, the second-largest commercial border point with Afghanistan.
However, those patrolling the area on the Afghan side claimed several people have lost their lives from dehydration and heatstroke, while some met their end, unable to access medical care in Chaman district.
The article said two more Afghans died near the Mazal gate on Wednesday afternoon, a less frenetic exit to the primary thoroughfare and designated for local families and special cases.
While officially, Pakistan has restricted entry at the key international intersection to Pakistani or Kandahar identification cardholders, locals say the gates have been sealed to almost everyone.
Trucks were seen stranded for miles with perishable goods rotting and public services, including those in the health sector, have stopped operations.
A lot of families have starved for days as they make regular rounds of the fortified checkpoint, only to be turned away.
The area has become a "military zone" over the past several days as thousands have been making desperate bids to move across Pakistan ever since the Taliban took over Kabul after the fall of the Ashraf Ghan-led elected government.
Taliban officials, who now patrol the overstuffed space, said Pakistan was creating problems and not sticking to its words
"We have an understanding with Pakistan to allow Kandahar people to cross into Pakistan. In return, people from Chaman and Quetta can enter Afghanistan using National IDs," Mohammad Sadiq Sabery, authority in charge of the border area in Kandahar, was quoted as saying in the article.
The Taliban are calling on Pakistan to open the border at least on urgent humanitarian grounds, but Pakistan has defended its move saying it had by far taken the highest number of Afghan refugees over the two-decade war.
According to Islamabad, the country is currently home to some 1.4 million registered refugees and an estimated 2 million more who are undocumented.
The United Nations estimates that about 10,000 refugees have come to Pakistan since mid-August, when the Taliban took over the Presidential Palace and secured control of the embattled country.
Reports of smugglers exploiting the situation and taking thousands of money from desperate Afghans have also come in.