LANDIKOTAL - Authorities razed to ground 318 houses of Afghan citizens residing on the Torkham border in Pakistan for the last 40 years, officials said yesterday.

Torkham Tehsildar Shakeel Umarzai told INP that on the directives of the high ups they had launched a cleanup operation against Afghans residing illegally on the border localities.

He said they had served notices to the Afghans to vacate the border area and shift their families back to Afghanistan. He said on the expiration of the last notice they started demolishing house near the Pak-Afghan border in Torkham. Umarzai said during a weeklong operation 318 houses occupied by Afghan nationals in Gyanrai and Bacha Mina areas were demolished. He said around 3,000 Afghan inmates residing in the demolished houses including women and children were sent back to Afghanistan via Torkham border.

The official claimed to have cleared the border areas of illegal Afghan migrants and ordered the security personnel not to allow anybody to cross the border without valid travel documents.

One the other hand traders and owners of Torkham bus terminal were not happy with the restrictions imposed on the travelers coming to Pakistan.

Haji Farzand Shinwari, the contractor of Torkham taxi terminal, told that at least 1,800 taxi and mini-coaches were providing transportation to the Afghan passengers to travel to various cities in Pakistan every day. He said due to travel restrictions on the Torkham border crossing the number of commuters dropped to only 500 or less a day.

Quoting the owners of taxi stands on the Afghan side of the Torkham border, Farzand said that Afghan taxi and terminal owners were also facing such kind of situation. He said Afghan taxies and mini-coaches also going in suffering as the number of passengers dropped to travel from and to Pakistan.

It was also learnt that in the coming days an important meeting at foreign minister level was expected in Islamabad take up the issue with the Pakistani government. Sources in Afghanistan said that Afghan traders and tribal elders forcing Afghanistan’s government to take up the issue with the Pakistani government.

On the other hand, authorities in Torkham had pasted pamphlets and banners on the various walls and at the front of shops, asking Afghan nationals not to travel Pakistan without visa after April 30.

Meanwhile, several Afghan families repatriated back to Afghanistan and crossed the Torkham border on Monday. A khasadar said that most of the Afghan families came from Peshawar and other cities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa due to the hot summer ahead in Pakistan.