In the southwestern Pakistani town of Chaman, which shares a border with Afghanistan, a growing wave of protests has erupted as residents voice their discontent with the strict visa policy recently imposed at the border crossing. The region has long been a hub for cross-border trade and movement. It has a history of familial, cultural, and economic ties that span generations. However, the new visa policy threatens to disrupt the lives and livelihoods of countless individuals on both sides of the border.
Chaman, situated in the Balochistan province of Pakistan, and the nearby Afghan town of Spin Boldak have shared a unique and intertwined history. The Durand Line, which separates the two countries, was drawn in the late 19th century by the British Empire. It creates a border that has been a source of controversy ever since. Despite the artificial division, the people of Chaman and Spin Boldak have maintained strong familial and cultural connections over the years.
Problems of the Cross Border Trading
Cross-border trade has been a lifeline for the residents of Chaman, where many households depend on this commerce for their income. The strict visa policy threatens the livelihoods of traders, merchants, and laborers who depend on this trade route for their sustenance. The policy requires anyone wishing to cross the border to have a visa, making it increasingly difficult for locals to engage in the cross-border economic activities that have sustained their families for generations.
The strict visa policy has given rise to a series of protests in Chaman. Demonstrators, including traders and community leaders, have taken to the streets to express their concerns. They argue that the new policy, if enforced rigidly, will not only damage the local economy but also further strain relations between the two neighboring countries.
It’s not just the economic aspect that is causing concern. Families divided by the Durand Line find it increasingly difficult to reunite and maintain connections with loved ones. The visa restrictions are a significant barrier to their already limited mobility, adding to the suffering of those already grappling with the challenges of living in a region with a history of conflict.
Community leaders and local authorities in Chaman have called for a reconsideration of the visa policy. They argue that a more flexible approach is needed to preserve the socio-economic fabric of the region while also addressing security concerns. Diplomatic channels and negotiations with Afghan authorities are also being explored to find a solution that balances security with the needs of the local population.
The residents of Chaman are facing an uncertain future due to the strict visa policy at the Afghanistan border. The policy, aimed at enhancing security, threatens the livelihoods of those who rely on cross-border trade and disrupts the cultural and familial ties that have endured for generations. As protests continue and voices of concern grow louder, it is imperative for policymakers to find a solution that protects the interests of the people of Chaman while addressing security issues. Balancing these concerns is essential to ensuring the well-being and prosperity of the region’s residents.
Earlier this year, The Pakistani government decided to restrict border crossings to only those with valid passports and visas, effective November 1. The government also decided that after October 31, no one will be allowed to cross the Pakistan-Afghan border using a Pakistani identity card or Afghan permit (Tazkira).
However, the leaders of all parties, traders’ organizations, and business community, who have formed an alliance, rejected the government’s decision.