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Pakistan seals border for Afghan elections

April 04, 2014

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Afghan election commission workers load ballot boxes on a vehicle in Ghori village of Adraskan district in Herat province on Thursday. The Afghan presidential elections will be held on Saturday.—Reuters
Afghan election commission workers load ballot boxes on a vehicle in Ghori village of Adraskan district in Herat province on Thursday. The Afghan presidential elections will be held on Saturday.—Reuters

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said on Thursday that it had sealed most of its border with Afghanistan, except for certain mutually agreed crossing points, for elections in the neighbouring country.

“Extra security measures would remain in place till the conclusion of the electoral exercise in Afghanistan,” military spokesman Maj Gen Asim Bajwa told Dawn.

Thousands of additional troops have been deployed to guard the 2,640km long porous Pak-Afghan border for preventing any unauthorised crossing. These troops are in addition to the 158,000 troops already present in the bordering tribal regions.

The deployment, he said, was three-tiered. “Only a few mutually agreed crossing points will remain open to facilitate movement of voters,” Gen Bajwa said.

Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said at the weekly media briefing that the special security measures had been taken on the request of the Afghan government.

“Naturally, there have been requests … we would be taking additional measures for security,” she said.

Taliban militants in Afghanistan have stepped up attacks in the run-up to April 5 presidential and provincial council polls. Afghan officials have blamed some of these attacks on Pakistan – a charge that has been strongly denied by Islamabad.

The Taliban had warned Afghans on Wednesday of further strikes and said that voters and election workers would be considered legitimate targets.

The FO spokesperson said “Pakistan has no interest in the Afghan elections being disrupted as it would only complicate the efforts to stabilise that country.”

She said Pakistan hoped that Afghan voters would turn up in good numbers despite the Taliban threat.

Ms Aslam described the upcoming Afghan elections on Saturday as a milestone towards stabilising the war-torn country.

“This is a historic moment for the Afghan people in their democratic journey. We hope that the Afghan nation would emerge stronger and more unified as a result of the forthcoming elections. As the friends and well-wishers of the Afghan people, we extend our best wishes for successful elections and a peaceful democratic transition,” she said.

There are over 3 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, but Ms Aslam noted that the Afghan government had, unlike before, not asked for assistance in making voting arrangements for them.

IRAN: About Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s planned visit to Iran, the spokesperson said, dates had not been fixed so far.

The visit would be preceded by a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Commission.

“We still do not have precise dates for the prime minister’s visit. The two countries are discussing this. We would like to see a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Commission before the prime minister’s visit so that we have substantive agenda for this visit.”

She said Pakistan would like Mr Sharif’s visit to be “a major step forward in our bilateral relations”.