PESHAWAR: Pakistani officials said on Monday that a ban on Nato trucks at the main border crossing into Afghanistan will last until the government promises to safeguard security.
Officials closed the northwestern Torkham crossing, the quickest route to the Afghan capital Kabul from the port of Karachi, to Nato traffic on Thursday, just weeks after lifting a seven-month blockade on Nato trucks going into Afghanistan.
The Pakistani Taliban have vowed to attack Nato supplies and last Tuesday, one of the truck drivers was shot dead in the northwestern town of Jamrud.
The suspension comes with the head of Pakistani intelligence, Lieutenant General Zaheerul Islam, due to hold talks with CIA chief David Petraeus in Washington this week, the first such talks for a year.
“The security plan by the political administration, police and Frontier Corps (a paramilitary force) is being prepared and once it is finalised and approved, Nato trucks will be allowed to pass,” Bakhtiar Khan, a local administration official, told AFP.
Authorities in the northwest say they wrote to the federal government 11 days ago, asking them to finalise a security plan as soon as possible.
“But so far we have not received any response,” Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told AFP from the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Federal government officials were not immediately available to comment.
Islamabad closed its land routes to Nato convoys after US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on Nov.26, but on July 3 agreed to reopen them after Washington said sorry for the deaths.
At Pakistan’s southwestern crossing into Afghanistan, officials said no restrictions have been placed on Nato supply trucks, but that traffic had thinned.
“Fifty-eight trucks are parked at Chaman awaiting clearance from Afghan officials,” clearing agent Ashraf Khan told AFP.
In Karachi, many truckers won’t leave without security guarantees and compensation, said Akram Khan Durrani, president of the All Pakistan Oil Tankers Owners Association.
“Until that, we are not going anywhere,” he told AFP.
“It is too dangerous to take our vehicles out without solid guarantees. The situation has changed dangerously as many political and religious groups are against it and the Taliban could strike anywhere if we have no security.”
Pakistan has invited key Afghan leaders from political groupings drawn from the former Northern Alliance to visit the country.
These include Uzbek and Tajik political leaders. Diplomatic and security officials said on Monday that delegation comprising non-Pakhtun leaders, including Afghan National Front chief Ahmed Zia Massoud, might travel to Pakistan soon. Afghan National Coalition’s Mohammed Yonus Qanooni and around a dozen other Uzbek and Tajik leaders from the northern parts of war-torn Afghanistan will also be among those expected in Islamabad.
Officials said these leaders might accompany Salahuddin Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik and the head of the High Peace Council (HPC) that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had formed in 2010 to spearhead talks with Taliban insurgents. Salahuddin, the son of Afghan former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, stepped into his father’s shoes when a Taliban exploded a bomb hidden in his turban inside Kabul’s highly fortified diplomatic zone last year.
The invitation was accepted by Salahuddin earlier this month when Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf visited Kabul for a day to meet Kaizal and other key leaders from all over Afghanistan, including those in the north. No date has been finalised so far for the visit, although an official said Rabbani and his Tajik and Uzbek counterparts might be arriving here some time around late August or early September.
Pakistani and Afghan military officials will meet in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad this week to discuss the contentious issue of cross-border raids, officials said.
Meanwhile, the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) rejected as incorrect a statement that the Pakistani military had notified Isaf 52 times that insurgents were crossing the Pak-Afghan border.