• Kharlachi border crossing remains closed following exchange of fire between Pakistani, Afghan forces
• Elders say representatives from both sides trying to effect ceasefire, ‘grand jirga’ expected today
• Foreign Office spokesperson says Kabul conveyed ‘deepest concerns’ about the situation

KURRAM: Clashes on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan escalated on Friday, prompting large-scale displacement from villages and settlements near the Kharlachi border crossing, as the Foreign Office said it had conveyed its deepest concerns on the situation to Kabul.

Sporadic clashes that began earlier this week further escalated on Friday, with more casualties being feared as forces on both sides traded fire through the night. However, there was no official word from Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) regarding the exchange of fire.

Local sources said that tribal elders from Kurram and the Afghan side had reached the border crossing to hold negotiations in a bid to halt the clashes.

The fighting has raised fears among locals, who are evacuating to safer places, and schools in the border areas have been closed. Cross-border trade along the Kharlachi-Borraki border crossing has also remained suspended.

Jalal Bangash, a tribal elder from Kurram, told Dawn that elders from both sides would put their heads together to effect a ceasefire and find an amicable solution to the issue.

A Kurram elder, Haji Zamin Hussain, told Dawn that the cause of the recent clash could not be ascertained. However, he said that elders from both sides held negotiations and resolved that a ceasefire was necessary to pave the way for further talks.

He said that if the ceasefire remained in place, a grand jirga would be held today (Saturday) to discuss and resolve the issue.

At her weekly press briefing, Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch was repeatedly asked about the situation on the Afghan border.

However, rather than offering any specific information about the ongoing incident, Ms Baloch reiterated that Pakistan was ready to defend itself against any threat to its security and sovereignty.

“Pakistan has conveyed its deepest concerns about the situation and urges the Afghan authorities to ensure that the soil of Afghanistan is not used to threaten Pakistan’s security and that it should take effective action against terror groups that continue to threaten Pakistan, Pakistani public and law enforcement and security officials,” she said, when pressed for details.

When asked about the talks with the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakis­tan (TTP) through jirgas, she said that Islamabad had “no plans to undertake any talks with a terrorist group that continues to threaten Pakistan’s sec­u­rity and has been inv­olved in killings of Pakis­tani civilians and law enforcement officials”.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2024

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