PESHAWAR, Sept 18 (WNP): Prime Minister Imran Khan Wednesday formally inaugurated the opening of the Torkham border crossing for 24 hours.
He 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.
‘Disservice to Kashmiris’
Prime Minister Imran said it had been his government’s priority from the start to improve Pakistan’s relations with its neighbouring countries and concentrate on stabilising the economy.
He said it was “unfortunate” for both Afghanistan and Pakistan that the dialogue that was taking place between the United States and the Afghan Taliban had stalled. “We will try our best to have the dialogue move forward so that there is peace,” he added.
In response to a question, the premier said because Pakistan was only facilitating the US-Taliban talks and was not participating in them, the government had “found out through newspapers” that the dialogue process had broken down.
Prime Minister Imran said if the talks had succeeded, his next move would have been arranging talks between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government.
Speaking about Pakistan’s eastern front, he said India had been “taken over” by a Hindu nationalist and racist. Referring to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said only an “extremist” could keep the people of occupied Kashmir under curfew for 45 days.
“There is no chance of talks” between Pakistan and India until the latter lifts the curfew in Kashmir and reverses the revocation of Article 370.
Prime Minister Imran said he will present Kashmir’s case at the United Nations General Assembly later this month “like no one has done before”.
Answering a question, the premier warned the people against thinking of going to Kashmir to “perform jihad“, saying anyone who does that will be doing a disservice to the Kashmiri people.
He explained that if anyone stepped into occupied Kashmir from Pakistan, India will “find an excuse” to torture and oppress the Kashmiris on the pretext of cross-border terrorism.
Imran said the international pressure against India was constantly rising, “but if anyone does any act (of crossing the border) from here, I will say they are the enemy of Pakistan as well as Kashmiris”.
The prime minister strongly condemned the violence carried out against the Hindu community in Sindh’s Ghotki district over a blasphemy allegation, terming it a “conspiracy to sabotage” his government’s Kashmir campaign ahead of his upcoming visit to the UN.
He emphasised that the Constitution of Pakistan and Islam both give equal rights to all citizens including minorities.
The prime minister also inaugurated the Pak-Afghan Friendship Hospital at Torkham. According to Radio Pakistan, Afghan patients arriving in Pakistan via the crossing point will be provided medical facilities in the hospital.
The border had been closed for all traffic in view of the inauguration ceremony taking place today.
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 to curb 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.