QUETTA: At least three people, including a woman, were killed and over 20 injured in a clash between an unruly mob and security forces at Friendship Gate border crossing in Chaman on Thursday, while a heavy exchange of fire also took place between Pakistani and Afghan security forces.
After remaining closed for pedestrian movement for several weeks, the border crossing was reopened on Wednesday to allow people from both sides to travel to their native areas to celebrate Eid.
According to sources, a large number of people gathered and staged a sit-in at Friendship Gate on Thursday with the intention to cross the border. Frontier Corps (FC) personnel asked them to move away from the gate, but they refused to do so. The FC officials told them that the gate would not be opened until shifting of the protesters from the site.
Meanwhile, a large number of Afghan nationals, including women and children, also gathered there for crossing into Afghanistan. However, when the gate was not opened by the border officials, the protesters became violent and attacked the offices of FC and other government agencies located at the Friendship Gate and set the FC and Nadra offices on fire.
Heavy exchange of fire takes place between Afghan, Pakistani forces
FC personnel fired bullets in the air to disperse the mob but with the passage of time more people joined the protest from both sides of the border.
Meanwhile, officials said, some gunshots were also heard and a mob attacked the 300-room quarantine facility established in containers close to the border and set it on fire.
Sources said the situation was further aggravated by some miscreants in the crowd and some gunshots were also heard. In the melee, three people were killed and 20 others suffered injuries.
The protesters then went to Chaman town where they forcibly shut down all bazaars and shopping malls and blocked roads.
“A heavy exchange of fire between Pakistani and Afghan forces continues and load explosions are heard in Chaman,” Zakaullah Durrani, a senior official of the local administration, told Dawn, adding that so far no casualty was reported in the shootout.
“We have received three bodies and 20 injured in the district hospital,” Dr Malik Achakzai said, adding that six injured had been shifted to Quetta due to their serious condition.
Balochistan Home Minister Mir Ziaullah Langove said at a press conference: “Some miscreants in the protest provoked the crowd. The incident is being investigated. The government will take decisions in the interest of the people and the country. If there is tension across the border, we will respond to it. We will investigate the incident from different angles and action would be taken against those responsible for violence.”
He said the government had closed the Chaman border due to security concerns.
The minister said that if any kind of tension was raised by Afghan forces on the border, it would be effectively responded to.
“We will not allow infiltration or aggression. The enemy is sitting across the border and spending billions of dollars to disturb peace of Pakistan. We are keeping an eye on threats of terrorism and steps are being taken to curb them,” Mr Langove said.
Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2020