6 dead, 17 injured in Chaman as Afghan Border Forces open ‘unprovoked, indiscriminate’ firing on civilians: ISPR
At least six people were killed and 17 others sustained injuries on Sunday when Afghan Border Forces opened “unprovoked and indiscriminate fire” on the civilian population in Balochistan’s Chaman district, the army’s media wing said.
According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), heavy weapons including artillery and mortars were used in the firing by Afghan forces.
“Pakistani border troops have given befitting albeit measured response against the uncalled for aggression but avoided targeting innocent civilians in the area,” the statement said.
It added that Pakistani authorities have approached their counterparts in Kabul to highlight the “severity” of the situation, demanding “strict action to obviate any such recurrence of the incident in future.”
Chaman District Police Officer (DPO) Abdullah Ali Kasi told Dawn.com that the firing began after a mortar shell was fired into Pakistani territory.
The DPO said all the injured were moved to District Headquarters Hospital Chaman except four, who were deemed “critically” injured and transferred to Quetta.
An emergency was imposed in Quetta Civil Hospital on the directions of Health Secretary Saleh Muhammad Nasir.
Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo expressed concern over the incident. “I hope the federal government will ensure an immediate and effective solution to this problem at the diplomatic level.”
He ordered the district administration of Chaman to provide full support to the people affected.
Meanwhile, Afghan official Noor Ahmad, in Kandahar, the province on the Afghan side of the border, told Reuters the incident was accidental and the situation had returned to normal after the two sides had a meeting.
He gave no further details on any casualties on the Afghan side.
Last month, the Pak-Afghan border at Chaman was closed for an indefinite period after an armed man from the Afghan side opened fire on Pakistani security personnel at Friendship Gate, resulting in the martyrdom of one soldier and leaving two others wounded.
Official sources had said that Pakistani and Afghan forces exchanged fire for more than an hour following the incident, with reports that five personnel from the Afghan side were killed and 14 others were injured in the gun battle.
The closure of the border soon after the incident caused the suspension of trade, including the Afghan transit trade, between the two countries.
On November 22, Pakistan reopened its border with Afghanistan at Chaman after a week. The decision to reopen the border was taken at a meeting between Pakistani border authorities and Taliban officials.
On Nov 25, the Foreign Office (FO) had said Pakistan was holding discussions to sort out issues in light of the increase in cross-border attacks from Afghanistan.
FO Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch had agreed that there were issues at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. “The two sides are holding regular border flag meetings and are engaged in discussion at various levels, including Kharlachi Border Crossing Point,” she had said.
Officials condemn attack
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah expressed concern over the incident and strongly condemned the attack.
He requested the Balochistan government to provide full support and assistance to the affected citizens.
“Details are being collected regarding the tragic incident that took place on the Pak-Afghan Chaman border,” the interior minister said. He said news about the deaths of Pakistani citizens was “extremely painful and saddening”.
Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said the “unprovoked shelling” was a “shameful act”.
“Pakistani forces took the best action by not targeting the Afghan civilian population as part of retaliatory action.
“The Afghan government should bring the reasons for the attack forward and bring those responsible for the tragedy to justice,” he tweeted.
PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari also strongly condemned the attack and regretted the loss of those martyred.
“The peaceful policy of the Pakistan Army in the region should not be considered a weakness,” he warned.
Former information minister Fawad Chaudhry said the PTI was drawing attention to the alleged deterioration of relations with Afghanistan, adding that the incident was only further evidence about that.
Condemning the incident, he questioned who was responsible for the state of relations with Afghanistan and the rise in terrorism.
Additional reporting by Shakeel Qarrar.