Senate of Pakistan

Pakistan, Afghanistan at odds over shelling, attacks

July 25, 2012

ISLAMABAD – Islamabad and Kabul have locked horns following fresh accusation’s against Pakistan’s military of mortar-shelling in two Afghan districts, just three days after Kabul had sought Islamabad’s help for a negotiated settlement in the war-torn neighbouring country.

In the past, although, both sides have accused one another for failing to curb cross- border incursions, Afghanistan’s direct blame on Pakistan’s military, however, comes as an indication that all is not well between the two neighbours despite recent pledges to continue ‘peace process.’

“Till Sunday night, they have fired more than five hundred shells that killed seven Afghan civilians. This is a case of unprovoked firing. We have lodged a strong protest with Islamabad,” said Kunar government’s Spokesperson Wasifullah Wasifi when approached on Skype Monday.

“No miscreant was harmed but civilians. Such misadventures are detrimental to bringing peace in Afghanistan. Islamabad should find out who is behind this cruel act and punish such elements who don’t want peace.”

On the other hand, Pakistan Army officials strongly refuted Wasifi’s accusations. Pakistani troops responded when attacked by Afghan militants, they said. “Our troops only engaged the militants from where they were attacked. During a year or so, Afghan militants have attacked our security forces and civilian population almost 15 times in Chitral and Dir. More than hundred civilians and security personnel have embraced martyrdom,” officials said.

Earlier on Saturday, Kunar government had accused Pakistani security forces of firing some 400 shells in Dangam and Shegal districts from Chitral. “This number has increased and up till now, some 300 shells are fired in Dangam and 200 in Shegal. Nearly 20 people have been injured, the death toll may rise because some of the injured are in critical condition,” Wasifi told TheNation. “If they were chasing militants, they should have informed us instead of targeting civilians,” the spokesperson referred to reports of cross-border attacks into Pakistani areas from Afghan side.

The District Coordination Officer (DCO) Chitral Rehmatullah Wazir, however, denied the occurrence of any such incident. “No such incident ever took place here. This is absolute disinformation spread by people at the other side of the border,” he told this journalist. “The security forces in this area operate in coordination with the district administration. We keep a track of everything that happens here. No such incident as cross-border shelling from Chitral has come to my knowledge. I can safely say this is all disinformation.”

On Thursday, following a trilateral meeting between the top government functionaries of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United Kingdom, Afghan President Hamid Karzai had reaffirmed support for Afghan-led negotiated settlement “facilitated by Pakistan and other regional countries.” Premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and his British counterpart David Cameron were also part of the trilateral talks. Karzai had also sought Islamabad’s support for negotiating with Taliban in solving the Afghan crises. The three sides had vowed to join hands for the elimination of militancy and terrorism.

Since last month, cross-border incursions from Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan provinces into Pakistan’s Upper and Lower Dir districts were frequently reported. Some 13 security personnel and nearly two dozen militants were reportedly killed in these skirmishes. Purportedly, Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had taken up the cross-border incursions issue with Commander International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) General John Allen then, as continuing enhanced border coordination was agreed upon between the two sides during ISAF chief’s visit to General Headquarters.

Some days back, General Kayani had visited Dir town of Upper Dir region where he met with tribal elders. The army chief, on the occasion, had announced that troops would stay till the area was cleared of militancy and cross-border attacks. He had also reiterated to continue supporting and strengthening peace lashkars (tribal militias) against militancy.


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