QUETTA: Guns on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border fell silent on Monday after an intermittent exchange of fire between the security forces continued over the weekend at Friendship Gate, which remained closed for a second consecutive day.

Pakistani officials claimed they had no plan to reopen the border crossing at Chaman until the Afghan forces hand over the armed men who opened fire on FC personnel at the Friendship Gate before fleeing back into Afghan territory.

Reuters quoted a spokesperson for the Afghan interior ministry as saying that the clash had occurred between border forces from both sides due to a “misunderstanding” and the incident was being investigated.

On the other hand, a spokesperson for the media wing of Pakistan’s military said they were looking into the situation to determine what had happened.

“We have provided footage of the CCTV camera of firing at the Pakistan side from Afghan territory to the Taliban officials,” Chaman Deputy Commissioner Abdul Hameed Zehri said while talking to Dawn.

Afghan authorities were also informed that the attackers who opened fire at Friendship Gate were riding motorcycles and after firing they fled into the Afghan area.

The Afghan border authorities, however, said the Taliban forces were not involved in the shooting at Friendship Gate. “They might be terrorists who were involved in firing,” they said.

The Afghan authorities in Spin Buldak in the meantime issued a sketch of a suspected shooter. “We are investigating the incident and making efforts to arrest the wanted attacker,” Afghan officials said.

Official sources said Pakistan refused to open Friendship Gate for transit trade and crossing, saying the border would remain closed until the authorities got the custody of the armed men who fired at Pakistani personnel, leaving one of them martyred and two others wounded.

“Silence prevailed on both sides of the border as no fresh incident of firing from any side was reported throughout the day,” Mr Zehri told Dawn when reached on phone.

About Sunday night’s gun battle between border forces, he confirmed that there were casualties on the Afghan side.

“Friendship Gate at the [Chaman] border is closed and we have no plan to open it till handing over of the armed men who opened fire on the Pakistan side,” he said. However, Mr Zehri said, on humanitarian grounds and as a goodwill gesture, several hundred Afghan nationals who were stranded in Chaman after the border closure were allowed to cross into their country from another area, considering that there were patients among them who had come to Pakistan for treatment.

“They were facilitated to cross into Afghanistan not through Friendship Gate, which is still closed, but from another site, which is not a crossing point,” Mr Zehri said.

The remaining Afghan nationals would also be allowed to return to their homeland through the same point when it would be opened for two to three hours on Tuesday and at the same time the Pakistanis who were stranded in Afghanistan would also return to Chaman, according to the officer.

About Sunday night’s gun battle between border forces, he confirmed to Dawn that there were casualties on the Afghan side.

Since the closure of Chaman border, the immigration offices of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Pakistan Customs have been closed. The offices will remain shut till the reopening of the border.

A number of trucks carrying Afghan transit trade and other important and export goods in the Customs House parking lot were also shifted away from the border. Traders in Chaman have strongly condemned the attack that caused closure of the border and affected supply of fruit to Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2022

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