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Crossing on Pakistani-Afghan border expands to 24 hours in bid to boost trade

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – A major crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan has expanded to operating 24 hours a day, in an effort to accelerate trade between the two countries along an often dangerous border.

The expanded hours took effect earlier this month on a trial basis and were inaugurated on Wednesday by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. The move came just days after Pakistan summoned an Afghan diplomat to account for militants from Afghanistan firing on Pakistani troops at the border, resulting in four deaths.

“The moment this was opened, trade immediately rose 50 percent,” Khan said of the expanded hours at a ceremony at the border. “We hope that it will bring prosperity to this whole region.”

Highways from the Afghan capital Kabul and the Pakistani capital Islamabad pass through Torkham. Before this month, the crossing was open 12 hours a day.

Afghan-Pakistani trade was worth $1.5 billion in 2016, with Pakistan shipments accounting for 80% of it, according to a database compiled by the World Bank, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

(Reporting by Rod Nickel and Asif Shahzad in Islamabad; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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