'Historic day': Premier inaugurates 24/7 border crossing at Torkham

TORKHAM: Prime Minister Imran Khan unveiling the inaugural plaque for Round the Clock Operationalisation of Torkham Border Terminal in Torkham, District Khyber.

Prime Minister Imran Khan formally inaugurated the opening of the Torkham border crossing for 24/7 hours.

The premier was accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan as he inaugurated the Integrated Transit Trade Management System. He was also given a briefing on the border terminal.

Addressing a press conference on the occasion, Prime Minister Imran said the round-the-clock opening of the border crossing will facilitate trade in the region.

“I consider this to be a very historic day,” he said, noting that trade with Afghanistan had jumped by 50 per cent during the trial of the 24/7 border opening alone.

He said the region will be transformed as soon as peace is established in Afghanistan and the trade activities will reach as far as Central Asia.

“The lives of people in this region will be changed,” he said, adding that Peshawar will become a regional hub of business activities which will generate employment opportunities.

‘No NRO for anyone’

Responding to a question regarding the opposition’s role in supporting government efforts, the prime minister said the opposition of the country was only concerned with a chance to escape accountability.

Citing developments in the recent joint session of parliament called in the National Assembly to show solidarity with occupied Kashmir, he said “the opposition’s only objective is for us to give them an NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) somehow.”

“They have had a one-point agenda since we came into power. The opposition did not let me give a speech [in the NA] from day one only to blackmail me so that I come under pressure.”

He said the NROs given by former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf to PML-N head Nawaz Sharif and PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, both of whom are currently imprisoned, had “added a debt of Rs24,000 billion on Pakistan in the last 10 years”.

It is cases from that era that the opposition is now using to “blackmail” the government, the premier added.

“I want to make it clear before the entire nation that no matter what happens, we will not give an NRO to anyone,” Prime Minister Imran said, attributing the rising inflation in the country to the fiscal and trade deficits accrued by the opposition leaders during their respective governments.

The prime minister also inaugurated the Pak-Afghan Friendship Hospital at Torkham. According to media, Afghan patients arriving in Pakistan via the crossing point will be provided medical facilities in the hospital.

Pakistan, for the first time, opened its Torkham border with Afghanistan round the clock earlier this month on a trial basis, to enhance bilateral trade and facilitate movement of pedestrians across the border.

The National Logis­tics Cell (NLC), in coordination with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has completed arrangements for the round-the-clock, trans-border trade terminal.

The work to upgrade the terminal began after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, on his last visit in June, requested Prime Minister Imran to ease trade between the two countries through the border crossing.

The NLC said that the Torkham border terminal had brought about a paradigm shift in regulating two-way movement of passengers and cargo and had helped curbing the cross-border movement of miscreants, illegal trade, narcotics trafficking as well as backward flow of transit trade goods to Pakistan.

According to the NLC, the border terminal has generated significant economic activities in the area which is largely benefiting the local KhugaKhel Shinwari tribe.