Pakistan Sees Security Threat
From Taliban Collapse
By Andy Soloman

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Fearing fighters from Afghanistan's embattled hard-line Taliban may try to flee into Pakistan, a senior official said Monday the southwestern border could soon be sealed even to vulnerable refugees.
All Afghan males aged 20 to 40 were being denied entry to Pakistan in case they were fighters, said a senior official from the Baluchistan provincial government.
"We are being very strict now, maybe we will even stop the vulnerables for the time being," he said.
"All Afghans coming from the other side of the border should be stopped, but we are checking very carefully and some special cases may be allowed in."
Since the latest Afghan crisis blew up in the wake of the September 11 suicide plane attacks on the United States, Pakistan has stated that it would not open its border to Afghan refugees fleeing conflict.
Border security has been tightened with army units in position and machine gun nests staring out over no-man's land.
But thousands of people have made it across, either legally or illegally, to languish in squalid refugee camps.
Widows with children, the sick, and the injured have been allowed to enter Pakistan.
Following the rout of the Taliban by the opposition Northern Alliance across much of Afghanistan in the last two weeks, Pashtun tribal leaders in the country's south marched against the hard-line militia Monday after U.S. Marines began to land in force near the movement's spiritual stronghold of Kandahar.
The United Nations refugee agency's Kris Janowski said he was concerned.
"We see great nervousness on the part of the Pakistani authorities which manifests itself in making it more difficult to register new (refugee) arrivals," he told Reuters.
Janowski said some 350 families, or 1,400 people, had been barred from registering at Killi Faizo staging camp, located next to Pakistan's official Chaman Afghan border crossing and home to around 5,000 people, and were stuck in the open with no tents or shelter in sub-zero night-time temperatures.
"Yesterday, for the second consecutive day we were barred from registering males aged 20 to 40," he said.
"All these men are shut out of the staging site and a growing number of people are roughing it in the cold. We appreciate the efforts to ensure no fighters get in the camps but they are an important pillar in these families."
The United Nations warned in September that as many as 1.5 million Afghans could try to flee military strikes as the United States attempted to flush out fugitive militant Osama bin Laden, prime suspect for the September 11 attacks, and punish his Taliban protectors.
That influx has not materialized. The senior Baluchistan official said around 120,000 Afghans were languishing in three ramshackle camps on a dusty plain just over the border inside Afghanistan.
"If there is some change in the situation on the ground we may see quite a lot of people coming this way," said Janowski. "We are prepared for much bigger numbers of people."

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