Demolishing homes: Can Torkham border security stop cross border terrorism?



The political administration of Khyber Agency has started demolishing houses of Afghan nationals in Bacha Maina, Torkham on Monday. The decision was taken after a large number of Afghan nationals refused to comply with a four-day deadline to vacate the area and cross the border into Afghanistan. On April 7, the political agent of Khyber Agency noticed issued a notification in this regard and threatened to take stern action against anyone who refused to abide by this ultimatum. After the deadline lapsed, the civil administration and law-enforcement agencies razed the houses of Afghan nationals to the ground with the help of bulldozers and tractors. A majority of the residents here carry on businesses via the border area and have been residing in Pakistan legally with proof of registration cards. Yet they face an insecure, precarious situation. This is not the first such incident of forced evacuation or brutality shown towards Afghan nationals. There has been an obvious increase in victimisation of Afghans in the country following the APS attack in December 2014. Arbitrary deadlines have been given to Afghans in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal region to leave the country. Afghans who have business links with Pakistan or who want to meet relatives or visit health facilities in Peshawar also cross over regularly. Some get in with relative ease after greasing the palms of border officials as they do not possess proper documents. This chaotic state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue as it poses significant security risks to Pakistan. For example, some of the militants involved in the Bacha Khan University attack apparently crossed over from Torkham undetected. The problem has also been brought up at the apex committee level. A rahdari (route permit) system has been introduced but is not being utilised to its full potential. For those who frequently cross the border, this card can be a workable solution, as through it the state will have the data of those entering and leaving the country. It can facilitate regular travellers as they will not have to apply for a visa each time they want to visit Pakistan, while allowing the state to spot undesirable elements. For the sake of security, the state needs to modernise and improve the border management system at Torkham without delay.