KABUL, July 8: Islamabad closed its embassy in Afghanistan in protest after a 500-strong mob demonstrating against alleged border incursions by Pakistani troops attacked and ransacked the premises on Tuesday, the Pakistani ambassador said.
A presidential source in Islamabad said Afghan President Hamid Karzai rang up President Pervez Musharraf in the evening and expressed personal apology during a 25-minute conversation and said such an incident would not happen again.
Mr Karzai said he had already ordered stern action against the culprits and some of them had been arrested.
He assured President Musharraf that Afghanistan valued its brotherly relations with Pakistan.
The Afghan president expressed the confidence that this unfortunate incident would not, in any way, impair the fraternal ties between the two countries.
Standing amid smashed glass at the embassy earlier, ambassador Rustam Shah Mohmand told reporters: “I have closed the mission unless the Afghan government compensates, number one; unless the Afghan government apologizes, number two; unless the Afghan government gives tangible concrete guarantees for the protection of the mission in the future, the mission will remain closed.”
In Islamabad, the foreign ministry summoned the Afghan charge d’affaires and lodged a strong protest. Kabul’s representative was told that Afghan authorities “were in a position to prevent the attack,” the ministry said in a statement.
Immediately after the attack, Mr Karzai said he “seriously condemned” the incident. “I will call him (President Musharraf) and apologize for this bad incident in the embassy and at the same time I will ask him for an explanation of what he said some days ago,” Mr Karzai told reporters, referring to remarks by Gen Musharraf in which he reportedly said the Kabul government was not in full control of the country.
“Those who committed this act are not the enemies of Pakistan. They are the enemies of Afghanistan, peace in Afghanistan. They are enemies of friendship between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Mr Karzai said.
Foreign Minister Mian Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri said in Islamabad the embassy would reopen after broken equipment and furniture were repaired.
The Afghan foreign ministry offered compensation and said those responsible would be punished and security improved.
Mr Mohmand said: “The Afghan government created the conditions under which this was made possible. He added that they expected to be attacked following a speech by Mr Karzai on Sunday criticizing Gen Musharraf’s remarks.
The ambassador said the mob was well organized, bringing a truck full of stones with which to attack the embassy while Afghan guards supposed to protect the mission actually helped the attackers.
“There were about 500 people, mostly youngsters armed with sticks, some with firearms,” he said. Staff hid in the basement “otherwise they would certainly have been attacked,” he added.
The windows of eight embassy cars were smashed while televisions, computers and windows were also smashed.
Embassy staff also showed a Pakistani flag, which they alleged had been set on fire by protesters. The protesters later joined a 1,000-strong peaceful demonstration against the alleged Pakistani incursions led by central bank governor Anwar Ul-haq Ahady.
In Mazar-i-Sharif, around 500 people held a protest outside the United Nations offices and burned a Pakistani flag and an effigy of President Musharraf.—Agencies
Mr Kasuri talked to the acting Afghan foreign minister Dr Rahim Sherzoi by telephone, and told him that such incidents would neutralize efforts of both governments to have a “model” relationship, our Islamabad correspondent adds.
“Pakistan attaches great importance to its relations with Afghanistan. We support the Bonn Process and the Karzai government. It is quite obvious that some elements are not happy with the improvement of relations between the two countries and President Karzai’s recent successful visit to Pakistan,” Mr Kasuri stated.