x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Nato lorries banned for fifth day from crossing into Afghanistan

Officials closed the north-western Torkham crossing, the quickest route to the Afghan capital Kabul from Karachi, to Nato traffic on Thursday, just weeks after lifting a seven-month blockade on Nato lorries going into Afghanistan.

A Pakistani border guard gives the
A Pakistani border guard gives the "OK" to Afghanistan-bound Nato trucks to enter eastern Afghanistan through the Torkham border crossing. The route has been closed, just weeks after a seven-month blockade was lifted.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan // A ban on Nato lorries at the main border crossing into Afghanistan will last until Islamabad promises to safeguard security, Pakistani tribal officials said yesterday.

Officials closed the north-western Torkham crossing, the quickest route to the Afghan capital Kabul from Karachi, to Nato traffic on Thursday, just weeks after lifting a seven-month blockade on Nato lorries going into Afghanistan.

The Pakistani Taliban have vowed to attack Nato supplies and last Tuesday, one of the lorry drivers was shot dead in the north-western town of Jamrud.

The suspension comes with the head of Pakistani intelligence, Lieutenant General Zaheer ul 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 lorries will be allowed to pass," Bakhtiar Khan, a local administration official, said.

Authorities in the north-west 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," Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister, said from the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Islamabad closed its land routes to Nato convoys after US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on November 26, but on July 3 agreed to reopen them after Washington said sorry for the deaths.

At Pakistan's south-western crossing into Afghanistan, officials said no restrictions have been placed on Nato supply lorries, but that traffic had thinned.

"Fifty-eight lorries are parked at Chaman awaiting clearance from Afghan officials," clearing agent Ashraf Khan said.

In Karachi, many truckers won't leave without security guarantees and compensation, said Akram Khan Durrani, the president of the All Pakistan Oil Tankers Owners Association.

"Until that, we are not going anywhere," he said.

"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."