Pakistan border guards throw tear gas on peaceful protestors at Chaman border

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chaman protest
Protestors block enterance to Chaman (Photo: X)

In a volatile turn of events, Pakistan border guards deployed tear gas on February 20 to disperse hundreds of protesters opposing the implementation of a new visa and passport regime at the Chaman border crossing. The demonstration, which has been ongoing since October last year, centres around Pakistan’s decision to expel illegal foreigners, mainly Afghans, and enforce stringent immigration-related restrictions, necessitating valid passports and visas for travel.

The “one document regime” replaced the long-standing practice of issuing ‘tazkira‘, a special travel permit to individuals from divided tribes residing along the 2,600 k.m. border. An operation against the protesters on February 20th heightened tensions, leading agitated demonstrators to gather at the check post, where they expressed their discontent by throwing stones leading to direct face-off between protestors and border guards. Meanwhile, the agitated protestors blocked the city entrances to the city.

Video footage widely circulated on mainstream and social media captured scenes of tear gas dispersal and numerous protesters near the border. The closure of the border for over four months has resulted in unemployment and a surge in food scarcity among the affected population.

Chaman fiasco shows Pakistan’s lack of vision

Essentially, the abrupt shift from the traditional “tazkira” approval at the border, which facilitated trade and community travel, has left many without work and disrupted daily life. Moreover, the Pakistani establishment’s decision to implement the new regulations without engaging in phased amendments or negotiations with the Chaman protestors reflects a lack of governance and public policy spirit. Instead, it seems driven solely by motives perceived to be against Afghanistan. Simply put the action is an evidence of lack of vision of Pakistan Army.

The decision’s impact on the local population, who relied heavily on cross-border trade and had familial ties on both sides, raises concerns about the establishment’s failure to address the grievances of its own people. Beyond the visa and passport requirements, Pakistan had also initiated an expulsion drive, citing increased attacks by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and claiming the group finds refuge in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. In this expulsion drive, Afghans have been dealt with brutality which has further agitated the Pashtun community.

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