ISLAMABAD, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 25th july,2016) : The Senate's Standing Committee on Defence was informed on Monday that the construction of a gate at Pakistan-Afghanistan Torkham border would be completed by August 1 and regular traffic would start within six days of it. Briefing the committee on Pakistan-Afghanistan border situation, Secretary Defence Lt General (Retd) Muhammad Alam Khattak said the gate would help stop illegal entry into Pakistan as 15,000 to 20,000 people and 900 to 1,200 vehicles daily crossd the Torkham border from both sides.
The committee meeting, chaired by Mushahid Hussain Syed, was attended by senators Ilyas Ahmad Bilour, Hidayat Ullah, Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, Lt Gen (Retd) Salahuddin Tirmizi, Lt Gen (Retd) Abdul Qayyum, Muhammad Javed Abbasi, Farhatullah Babar and Sehar Kamran, Brig (Retd) John Kenneth William, Minister for Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Secretary Defence and Additional Secretary. The Secretary Defence said the same facility would be provided at other five to six crossing points, including Angur Adda phase-wise after completion of the Torkham gate.
He said Pakistan had been making consistent efforts to formalize the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, which, however, were resisted by Afghanistan after being influenced by its local tribes and some other reasons. On June 12, Khattak said, the Afghan Border Police (ABP) personnel came to the 'Zero Line' and asked not to start the construction work and the next day they fired five to six mortar bombs. Pakistan retaliated with small arms without targeting the civilian population unlike Afghanistan, he added.
In reply to a query of Lt Gen (Retd) Abdul Qayyum, the secretary said the fire was initiated from the local Afghan police. Committee chairman Mushahid Hussain Syed said the national narrative was to make the Pakistan-Afghanistan border secure and there was no need to `over-react' on the incidents triggered by the local Afghan police. "Each of us has the responsibility to protect national interest at every cost," he added.
Answering another query, the committee was apprised that there were around 88 un-notified crossing points, out of approximately 200. "The border is manageable provided that both the governments are agreed for it," it was told. The body was informed that Pakistan had an effective and organized border security system as compared to Afghanistan. It had some 800 manned-posts, while Afghanistan had only 60. The secretary said the United States had approved $100 million for development of FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) and capacity building of its law enforcement agencies.
He said $8 billion would also be spent to secure the border in next five to eight years. Minister for Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif said the government was effectively pursuing the management of all crossing points and "we will not abandon it." He said it would be difficult to control the menace of terrorism without effective border management. He underlined the need for early repatriation of Afghan refugees for improved law and order and peace in Pakistan.
Khawaja Asif said the financial assistance, which was being spent on the Afghan refugees in Pakistan by UNHCR, would be utilized for their settlement in the home country. He said Pakistan had taken the decision for the border management and was pursuing it in letter and spirit. "There will be no compromise on it." Earlier, Mushahid Hussain Sayed observed that the committee expressed solidarity with Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan over the recent incidents of terrorism, besides Turkey over the aborted military coup.