ISLAMABAD\KHYBER AGENCY – Islamabad on Saturday lodged a strong protest with Kabul over Afghan security forces’ thrashing of around 29 labourers returning to Pakistan and their illegal confinement and torture on them while in Afghanistan.

Pakistan-Afghanistan border at Torkham, which was closed Saturday morning after these labourers crossed the border and complained about torture on them by Afghan troops, was reopened after Afghan officials assured that action would be taken against those involved in the incident.

A Foreign Office spokesman that Pakistan has taken serious note of Afghan soldiers’ beating up of the Pakistanis despite their having valid travel documents and summoned the Afghan Charge d’ Affaires to foreign ministry in the morning and lodged a strong protest, seeking an investigation into the incident and action against those responsible.

The spokesman in a statement said that Afghan Government was also asked to take appropriate measures to avoid recurrence of such incidents in future. He said that a similar protest was also lodged by the Ambassador of Pakistan in Kabul with the Afghan Government.

The labourers told that they had travelled to Afghanistan for work but the company concerned refused to pay their wages. They added they had also been locked up in Afghanistan’s Pul-i-Charkhi prison where they were tortured by jail authorities. And when they were returning, Afghan forces allegedly tore their Pakistani passports, snatched their money and beat up them brutally.

Upon their reaching the border and telling about their ordeal to the Pakistani border officials, the authorities shut the border gates leading to a halt in Nato supplies and other traffic. The border was reopened after almost six hours following negotiations between Pakistani officials and Afghan officials led by Afghan Commissioner Inayat Ullah Shinwari.

Afghanistan assured that action would be taken against those responsible for mistreating and torturing the labourers. Wing Commander Lt-Col Mushtaq Ahmad said the victim citizens of Pakistan were aged 25-59 years and medical reports proved that they had been tortured.

Tariq Mehmood, an injured victim hailing from Lahore, narrating their story told that Shuja Steel Mills in Tela Murad Baig area of Kabul hired Pakistani labourers in last July and August. He said scores of labourers from Lahore, Shiekhupura, Tahata and Gujranwala went to Afghanistan on legal travelling documents for to avail this employment opportunity.

On expiry of their visas, the mill owner who had restricted them to the mill premises asked them to leave without pay, Tariq said. On their return on Friday, the personnel at Maipar Post of Afghan Army stopped them and after knowing that they were Pakistanis, they dragged them out of two vehicles, he added.

“We were brutally tortured and the soldiers also tore passports of three of our companions. They threw the passports in river Kabul (that flows into Pakistan) and asked us to collect them at Attock bridge,” 59-year-old Akram from Gujranwala said in a trembling voice. “The soldiers threatened us ‘We will set you ablaze if you again came to Afghanistan.’ On our arrival at the border the Afghan immigration officers forced us to pay them bribe money and then registered our exit on passports on back dates, Tariq said.