Pakistani military aside. Taliban militiamen, to the other. There is hardly any distance between them. The green and white Pakistani flag shares the limelight with the white ensign of the ’emirate’ that marks the beginning of the land controlled by Islamists armed with Kalashnikovs, but also with modern weapons donated by the US to the defunct Afghan Army. The Torkham border, located north of Peshawar and just 180 kilometers from AcceptanceLittle by little, the activity recovers and it is easier to cross the Emirate than to leave it. On Torkham the flow of Afghans returning home is constant. However, leaving the country is reserved for diplomats and those with a Pakistani visa.
US-led evacuations 120,000 people left the country, but thousands of collaborators were left on the ground. Qatar, that next to Turkey it has become the great bridge of the Taliban with the international community, working on the reopening of the airport and the possible establishment of a humanitarian corridor. The Taliban repeat daily that they will let out those who have a visa, the problem is that many do not have it and that with the airport closed, only the land borders remain, but the neighbors keep them semi-sealed.
Dozens of men crowd into a kind of elongated prison covered by a tejavana that is the pedestrian access to the border post on the Pakistani side. Women go through another place that men cannot access. Ajbar is waiting for his daughter Sabrina, who married an Afghan ten ago, went to live in Jalalabad and has never returned since. “I had planned the trip before the arrival of the Taliban, but everything has been delayed and now there is no way to get permission from Pakistan, she is on one side of the border and I on the other.” Northern Pakistan and Southern Afghanistan is territory Pashtun, entire families are separated by a border, but share language, culture and traditions.
Heal Mohamed is a truck driver. He was involved in an accident in early August and traveled to Peshawar for treatment at a hospital. Now, recovered, he does not doubt his desire to return home: “My family lives in Kabul, I speak with them every day and they tell me that there are financial problems, but not security. The capital is calm and the route is safe. The security mantra is repeated among those waiting their turn to present their passport. Also that of the economy, although the news that Western Union, a company specializing in money transfers, is back in business was a door of hope.
Daud also traveled to Pakistan a few weeks ago for medical reasons, he had to accompany his mother. «I have received a call from my school to tell me that classes have started again and that I should join, why shouldn’t I? My life is there and I want to complete my studies ”, he comments while preparing the papers that will allow him to cross. Asmare has dressed in her best salwar kamize (a typical local costume with wide trousers and blouse), she has packed several gifts in her wheeled suitcase and is smiling through this kind of long latticed corridor. “The western media only talk about negative things, but we see one thing that is the most important of all: with the Taliban in power we have a chance to live in peace. We are fed up with war after war. I’m going to see my friends in Jalalabad and I’ll be back in a week. He says goodbye with a wide smile.
The gate of the ’emirate’
Once you have crossed the Pakistan post, you have to travel a kilometer to reach the Afghan. Torkham means “black mountain” and the setting is from a novel by Tolkien, the small road winds through the enormity of mountains that make you feel like a toy. The fence is up, but right after the first Taliban stop the newcomers. They have raised a large flag of the Emirate and cut the road with one of the off-road vans previously used by the Police and the Army.
Behind the vehicle is a group of about 200 people waiting their turn to cross in bright sunlight. The main job of the militiamen is to control the trucks that pass without stopping loaded to the brim and raising a dust that clouds up the mountains. They exchange comments with the Pakistani military deployed there and do not put any impediment before the cameras. They are seen to be relaxed and with the confidence of someone who has the strength. Some cover their faces with handkerchiefs, others wear it uncovered, all are heavily armed. After decades in hiding now they impose order. “At the moment there is no heavy traffic of people because both sides ask to have all the documents in order, but things are starting to work,” says the colonel. Rizwan Nazir. The military emphasize that coordination with the Taliban has made “the situation remain stable.”
Islamabad’s government maintains a closed-door policy and its Interior Minister, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, stated that “not a single person has been given refugee status.”
Torkham is the fastest overland exit route from Kabul, but at the moment this road only has one direction, which is back to the Emirate.