Border shut after Afghans burn Pakistani flag

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QUETTA: Pakistan has closed its border with Afghanistan indefinitely after a group of Afghan demonstrators attacked the Friendship Gate at Chaman and set the Pakistani flag on fire, it emerged on Friday.

The incident that took place on Thursday evening has resulted in suspension in the movement of trucks involved in trade shipments between the two countries and carrying supplies for Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Sources said that a large number of Afghan nationals, celebrating the 97th anniversary of their country’s independence day, gathered near the Friendship Gate after marching through the streets of the Spin Boldak town across the border. They carried placards and banners inscribed with anti-Pakistan slogans.

Shouting slogans against Pakistan, the Afghan demonstrators started pelting the Friendship Gate with stones, smashing windowpanes of the building.

Exercising restraint, the personnel of Frontier Corps avoided taking any action against the Afghan protesters who swarmed the gate after seeing Pakistanis who had staged a protest against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his remarks about Balochistan the same day and were dispersing.

The Afghan demonstrators snatched the national flag from a Pakistani protester who stood close to the Friendship Gate and set it on fire.

The Afghan demonstrators also tried to force their entry through the gate which had already been closed because of the Afghans’ rally.

“The Friendship Gate at the Pak-Afghan border has been closed after the flag burning incident,” a senior security official said.

“The border with Afghanistan will remain closed for an indefinite period,” security officials deployed at the Friendship Gate said on Friday. “We will not open the gate until orders to do so are received from the high command,” they added.

Hundreds of containers and trucks, carrying Nato supplies and goods for Afghanistan and Pakistan, were stuck on both sides of the border.

“No consignment of fresh fruit and other goods could enter Chaman from Afghanistan while the same situation exists at the Pakistani side,” said Kamaluddin, who runs his fresh and dried fruit business in Chaman.

Every day between 10,000 and 15,000 Pakistani and Afghan traders cross into Chaman and Vesh Mandi in connection with their business in the border towns.

“Not a single trader crossed the border from either side on Friday because of the closure of the Friendship Gate,” Niamat¬ullah, a resident of Chaman, told Dawn by phone.

According to the sources, security has been heightened at the border after the flag burning incident as more FC personnel had been deployed there to meet any eventuality.

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