February 26, 2020
Pakistan on Tuesday temporarily opened its border with Iran in Taftan, Balochistan to let hundreds of Iranian citizens out, an official told Arab News.
“The border has been opened for around 300 truckers who had stuck on our side of the border after the gate closure. They have been allowed to drive back to Iran. Hundreds of other Iranian citizens are also going to the Iranian side,” said Najeebullah Qambrani, assistant commissioner of Taftan.
The exact number of persons who will cross the border will be known once the process is completed. On Tuesday evening, the checkpoint will be closed again due to fears over the coronavirus outbreak in Iran.
“No one has been allowed to enter Pakistan from the Iranian side. This opening is for one way traffic toward Iran,” Qambrani said, adding that Balochistan Home Minister Mir Zia Ullah Langove and other senior officials visited the border on Tuesday to assess health screening measures.
Local residents say the closure — imposed on Saturday evening — has already resulted in fuel shortages and price hikes in border districts.
“The prices of petrol in Nushki district have soared by Rs20. In areas away from the border, there is a hike of up to Rs40,” Muhammad Bux, a resident of Dalbandin, told Arab News, adding that LPG prices have also increased.
“We are also facing a shortage of gas,” he said.
Daroo Khan Achakzai, former president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI), said the closure has affected trade, but the Ministry of Health assured them official commercial activity will return to normal as soon as screening arrangements are in place. Illegal trade, however, remains unrestricted.
“Formal trade can be managed, but there is no halt to illegal trade despite the coronavirus outbreak,” he told Arab News.
Pakistani citizens who entered the country via Taftan after the border closure have been quarantined.
“We have quarantined 270 and the border is now completely closed. We will continue to quarantine incoming (persons),” Qambrani confirmed on Monday, adding that none of the persons will be allowed to travel to the rest of Pakistan until they have completed the quarantine period.
Pakistan has sealed its land border with Iran after 12 coronavirus deaths were reported in the neighboring country.
The move followed Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan’s decision on Saturday to declare a health emergency in all provincial districts bordering Iran.
The novel coronavirus has spread to more than 25 countries, with more than 2,500 dead in China.
Iran has the highest coronavirus death toll outside China.