ISLAMABAD: Hostilities on the border near Chaman ended late on Friday afternoon after a hotline conversation between Pakistan and Afghanistan’s directors general of military operations (DGMOs) during which the Afghan official admitted his side’s mistake in identifying the boundary in the area.
“Afghan director general, military operations, acknowledged that border is in between villages and not at the ditch… as being perceived by them,” an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement on the conversation between the DGMOs said. It noted that the Afghan official had agreed that the ditch was well inside Pakistani territory.
With the attack happening at a time census was under way in the two border villages targeted by artillery, it appeared as if the Afghan side wanted to disrupt the exercise. The ISPR, in its first statement on the incident, pointed out that the Afghan border police had been creating hurdles in the conduct of the census since April 30 despite having been notified about it in advance.
Frontier Corps soldiers have been accompanying the census teams in the two villages, much like other parts of the country where troops have been part of the exercise for security and enumeration duties.
An Afghan official, Zia Durrani, talking to journalists in Afghanistan, alleged that Pakistan was, on the pretext of census, undertaking “malicious activities and was provoking villagers against the (Afghan) government”.
Afghanistan appears averse to census in divided villages
The ISPR statement stressed that the Afghan DGMO was told that “we shall continue our work within our border”. This was implied as a resolve about continuation of the census in the area.
Analysts believe that the Afghan forces were averse to the people residing in those villages being identified and counted.
During the hotline talk, DGMO Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza reminded his Afghan counterpart that the border line ran through the villages, dividing them between the two countries, and Pakistani security forces and civilians were well within their own territory.
He asked the Afghan DGMO to direct his troops to stay on their own side and defuse the situation.
“Afghan DGMO agreed to take up the matter and issue necessary orders accordingly,” the ISPR said and noted that the exchange of fire had ended.
Afghan Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal said: “Cessation of fire and resolving (the matter) through talks had been agreed upon.”
The military officers’ conversation was followed by a ‘flag meeting’ of the local commanders near the Chaman crossing for discussion on details.
The Afghan charge d’affaires was summoned to the Foreign Office for receiving a protest.
“We urge the Afghan government to take immediate steps to bring an end to the unprovoked firing from the Afghan side. Action should also be taken against those who are responsible for this violation,” the Foreign Office said in a statement after the Afghan diplomat’s visit.
“The Afghan charge d’affaires was conveyed that Pakistani authorities were undertaking the population census and this information had been shared with Afghan government earlier. The unprovoked firing from the Afghan side not only led to the loss of precious lives and injured many, but has also disrupted the census in areas on the Pakistan side of the border and caused damage to properties,” it added.
Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria said in his weekly media briefing: “The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is clearly demarcated. All the locations are authenticated by maps available with the two governments. Pakistan is undertaking census in its own areas, which is our sovereign right.”
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, through a media statement, condemned the “grave incident” and underscored that “such incidents are contrary to our efforts for achieving peace and stability in the region”.
He said it was the Afghan government’s responsibility to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.
Published in Dawn, May 06th, 2017