Reopening only a few weeks ago after an extended closure, the Chaman border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been closed again to all travellers. Clashes erupted between Frontier Corps (FC) personnel and traders after the late protested being stopped at the border for not having valid documents, as a result the border was closed and the protestors forcefully dispersed. The previous border closure heavily taxed relations between the both nations, and it took concentrated protests from Kabul to get it open. So soon after the reopening, this episode will not go help improve relations.

However it must be noted that this instance has markedly different facts. This was not a unilateral closure, but one taken after a security situation had developed at the border. Pakistan’s decision to require more formality, legality and organisation at its western border is a necessary and overdue one, and the FC personnel must be commended for enforcing that decision with force. Trader and travellers may protest at having to jump through new administrative hoops where they could previously just saunter over the border, but this is a change that they have to learn to adapt to. Only strict border control on the west can stem the tide of terrorism in the country.

However, the punitive closure of the border to all travellers must be formalised as well. It is understandable that the present closure is an administrative one in the face of clashes, and will be reopened soon as the security situation normalise, but who has the authority to order a punitive closure and what process this decision goes through needs to be clear. Right now it seem the border officials and the military hold the power to unilaterally order this, but considering that there are significant diplomatic repercussions to each closure the government should be required to sign off on the decision too.