Chaman Border Shelling
According to multiple reports and the Defense Minister of Pakistan, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, people were busy repairing a damaged fence when the forces of Afghanistan slammed the fence with their jeep, which resulted in the closing of the friendship gate at the Chaman border crossing.
Later, the Afghan forces opened fire and used heavy ammunition between Shoukat and Ilyas Pakistani border posts. Artillery and mortar shells killed 7 individuals and injured 16. In retaliation, Pakistan fired back, taking the lives of seven to eight Afghans.
State authorities, the military, and our leaders are unanimous on the severity and seriousness of the issue. ISPR released a statement and described the incident as “uncalled-for aggression” and that Pakistani troops had given a “befitting” but “measured response”.
Similarly, the Foreign Office strongly condemned the attack saying “such unfortunate incidents are not in keeping with the brotherly ties between the two countries”. The Chief Minister of Balochistan, Abdul Qadoos Bizenjo, is also aggrieved and has asked the federal government to take timely action. In his tweet, he wrote, “I hope the federal government will ensure an immediate and effective solution to this problem at the diplomatic level.”
Rana Sanaullah, Interior Minister, also rebuked the attack and requested the Balochistan government to provide full support and assistance to the affected citizens. PPP leader, Asif Ali Zardari has also expressed his concerns, warning the perpetrators that “The peaceful policy of the Pakistan Army in the region should not be considered a weakness.”
A senior PTI member, Fawad Chaudhary, in his tweet has questioned the state authorities for rising skirmishes on the border and their responsibility for an effective response. He further reiterated PTI’s effort for drawing attention to the gravity of deteriorating relations with Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif tweeted the following day, stating that “unprovoked shelling and fire by Afghan Border Forces at Chaman, resulting in [the] martyrdom of several Pakistani citizens and injuring more than a dozen, is unfortunate and deserves the strongest condemnation.”
Former ambassador to Afghanistan, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, also created a thread on Twitter stressing the need for a timely and effective response to limit a renewed series of attacks. An apologetic statement by the Taliban has also been released, taking responsibility for the incident. Khawaja Muhammad Asif has further said that “matters have been resolved” after their apology. Despite this, Afghan forces launched more attacks within less than a week.
On 15th December, Afghan forces opened fire again at the Chaman border while Pakistan’s border authorities were repairing the damaged fence near the border village of Sheikh Lal Khan thus killing one more individual while injuring 15 others. According to official reports, a mortar shell also exploded near Frontier Corps and Afghan forces also targeted Tanveer, Changez, Shoukat, and Ilyas posts.
However, this time, Kabul blamed Pakistan for increased aggression and opening the first fire. Astonishingly, the Taliban’s defense ministry has called for a resolution through negotiations. The Ministry has further added that “Negative actions and creating excuses for war will benefit no one.”
Following the incident, Pakistan summoned the Afghan chargé d’affaires in Islamabad on Friday. This is the first time Pakistan has called the Afghan envoy thus suggesting that Pakistan is running out of patience with the Taliban regime that is now targeting its citizens as well.
Last Month’s Violence
The border was closed earlier last month as well for similar reasons. Border activities were halted when an armed personnel opened fire on 13th November at the friendship gate, killing one soldier and wounding two others. As a result of continued fires, five Afghan personnel were killed and 14 were injured.
A week later, Pakistan re-opened its borders and on 25th November, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said that discussions were being held between the two countries considering increased cross-border violence. The recent skirmishes on the border were followed by an attack on Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul.
The sources have claimed that Afghan forces are failing to comply with international obligations of ensuring strict security in highly sensitive diplomatic areas. Pakistan has further added that it “expects the Afghan government will fulfil its international obligations and ensure that the Afghan soil is not used for any hostile activity against Pakistan and such incidents are not repeated in the future.”
These recent incidents of cross-border violence are reportedly because Afghan forces are trying to limit Pakistan’s efforts towards improved border operations. The Afghan government strongly opposes this development, but Pakistan stands by its decision of effective border security.
Pakistan hoped for better bilateral relations with the return of the Taliban but the future looks gloomy now. The Taliban regime is also failing to fulfill its promise of mitigating violence perpetrated by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Mansoor Ahmed Khan, former ambassador to Afghanistan, advocates for peace on the borders as it will be mutually beneficial.
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