FM Qureshi concedes discord exists with Taliban over border fence

Published January 4, 2022
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi briefs the media at the Foreign Office on Monday. — PID
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi briefs the media at the Foreign Office on Monday. — PID

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday vowed to press ahead with fencing of the border with Afghanistan while hoping that contentious issues would be resolved with the Taliban authorities through diplomatic channels.

Speaking at a media briefing at the Foreign Office, Mr Qureshi, while responding to a question about fresh reports of Taliban removing the border fence, said:

“We have erected the fence and we will continue to fence the border.”

Reports about Taliban preventing fencing and taking away spools of barbed wire first emerged last month. A senior Pakistani official had after that incident claimed that the matter had been resolved and that the two sides had decided that further fencing would be done through mutual agreement.

Says contentious issues to be resolved with Kabul authorities through diplomatic channels

However, more reports of Taliban pulling down the fence and preventing Pakistani soldiers from erecting the barbed wire surfaced over the past few days.

It was the first time for the foreign minister to publicly acknowledge the differences with Taliban over the border fence.

Pakistan began fencing the 2,600-kilometre-long porous border with Afghanistan in the summer of 2017 to end terrorist infiltration and smuggling. The Ashraf Ghani government also remained opposed to fencing and on multiple occasions in the past the issue led to deadly military clashes between the two sides.

Afghans oppose border fence primarily because they do not accept the Durand Line separating Pakistan and Afghanistan as the international border.

Pakistani authorities had the expectations that Taliban would get them the needed acceptance of the border, but that did not happen either during the group’s previous stint in office or after the recent takeover.

Taliban have, meanwhile, publicly maintained an anti-fencing stance, saying it divides the Pashtuns living on both sides of the border.

Foreign Minister Qureshi said the matter was being pursued with Taliban. “We are not silent. … We will resolve these irritants through diplomatic means,” he maintained. “We will protect our interests,” he further emphasised.

The foreign minister cautioned against “playing up” the Taliban actions of removing the fence. “That is not in Pakistan’s interest,” he maintained.

Speaking about Pakistan’s policy on Afghanistan, Mr Qureshi said the Taliban takeover following the collapse of the Ghani regime presented “a window of opportunity for durable stability after 40 years of conflict”.

He said Pakistan advocated “constructive and sustained engagement” between the international community and Taliban government to help the latter address the multiple challenges confronting the Afghan people, particularly the humanitarian crisis and the risk of economic collapse.

According to Dawn.com, Afghan defense ministry spokesman Enayatullah Khwarzmi, in a video posted on Twitter, said Pakistan had no right to fence the border and create a divide. He contended that such a move was “inappropriate and against the law”.

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2022

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