Chaman standoff continues after second day of talks
Saleem Shahid 9 killed, over 40 injured after Afghan forces open fire on border villages in Chaman
QUETTA: The situation on the Afghan border remained calm on Saturday but the security forces on both sides remained alert and there was no traffic between Chaman and Kandahar for the second day.
Pakistan had closed the border on Friday after attacks by Afghan forces on census staff and security personnel escorting them left 12 people dead and 40 others injured.
A second flag meeting between Pakistani and Afghan military commanders, held at the Friendship Gate, remained inconclusive. Earlier, a meeting held on Friday evening had also ended without any decision. According to sources, Saturday’s meeting continued for over an hour.
Frontier Corps Sector Commander (North) Brig Nadeem Sohail represented Pakistan and Gen Ahmedi of the Afghan National Army led his country’s delegation. Both sides discussed Friday’s incident and defended their stances.
“The flag meeting ended without any concrete decision,” a security official said.
He said Pakistani officials had stressed that the villages where the census staff were conducting the population count near the border belonged to Pakistan.“The Afghan general and his delegation went back to Afghanistan without any decision,” the sources said, but added that more meetings at this level could not be ruled out.
Meanwhile, Pakistan deployed more army and FC troops on the border.
The Afghan government withdrew police from the border area and deployed army personnel.
The authorities concerned asked the people living in the villages close to the border to shift to safe places. Majority of the villagers have already left their homes.
The authorities have restricted the movement of people in the areas till the situation normalises.
“There is no movement of people and vehicles in the border areas,” an official of the Chaman administration said.
Hundreds of trucks and other vehicles carrying Afghan transit trade goods and Nato supplies were stuck on both sides of the border as the crossing points at the Friendship Gate and other places were closed.
“The Friendship Gate will not open till the issue is resolved,” the officials said.
The authorities in the border town Chaman closed all schools and colleges for an indefinite period. Balochistan Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Director General Muhammad Tariq said around 2,000 families living in villages close to the border had been affected by the attacks.
He said at a press conference that 19 trucks loaded with relief goods, including food, tents and blankets, worth Rs40 million had reached Chaman for distribution among the affected families.
He said the assessment of the losses had also been launched and the government would compensate the affected families.
Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri had earlier announced an allocation of Rs150m to cover the damage in Chaman.
Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif stressed the need for promoting mutual cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan for the elimination of terrorism and establishment of durable peace in the region, our correspondent in Sialkot adds.
Talking to reporters, he said Pakistan wanted good relations with Afghanistan and would continue its sincere efforts for the purpose.
He said the country had again offered its full cooperation to the Afghan government to eliminate terrorism and restore peace.
The minister, however, condemned the killing of innocent Pakistanis in the attacks by Afghan forces.
He said Pakistan was monitoring the situation on its borders and would take whatever measures were needed to protect its boundaries.
He said the country would respond instantly and effectively in a befitting way to the enemy on border violations.
Mr Asif said Pakistan was successfully eliminating terrorism and continuously playing a frontline role for global peace.
According to AP, the minister also said in strongly worded televised remarks that the latest skirmishes were a reflection of a “nexus” between Kabul and New Delhi.
He said the Afghan government had not positively responded to efforts made by Pakistan to improve relations with Afghanistan in recent months.
Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2017