Pakistan summons Afghan diplomat over border shelling

Border tensions between the South Asian neighbours have risen since the Taliban returned to power last year.

Army soldiers stand guard border crossing point at the border town of Chaman in Pakistan.
Soldiers protect Pakistan's border with Afghanistan in the city of Chaman [File: Saeed Ali Achakzai/Reuters]

Pakistan has summoned an Afghan diplomat over “unprovoked” artillery fire at their border as tensions have ratcheted up between the South Asian neighbours in the past several weeks.

“Afghan Chargé d’Affaires in Islamabad was called to the foreign ministry and Pakistan’s strong condemnation was conveyed over recent incidents of unprovoked cross-border shelling resulting in a loss of life, injuries and damage to property,” the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Friday.

“It was reiterated that protection of civilians remained the responsibility of both sides and that recurrence of these incidents must be prevented,” it said.

At least six people were killed and more than a dozen wounded on Sunday in what Pakistan said was unprovoked fire from Afghan forces near the southern border town of Chaman in Balochistan province. A Taliban member was killed and 10 people were wounded on the Afghan side. A second round of shelling wounded at least 16 Pakistani civilians on Thursday.

Sunday’s deadly clash is believed to have erupted over the construction of a border checkpoint by Pakistan, which has been trying to fence its porous border with Afghanistan.

The Taliban has objected to the fence along their 2,700km (1,675-mile) border, and Afghanistan has contested the British-era boundary demarcation, known as the Durand Line.

In Friday’s statement, Pakistan said it remained committed to “maintaining fraternal relations with Afghanistan” and described quiet borders as “intrinsic” to that objective.

Pakistani Minister of Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif told the National Assembly that Kabul had apologised for Sunday’s incident, local media reported, but violence erupted again four days later.

A Taliban stands guard at Afghanistan-Pakistan border in Spin Boldak
A Taliban fighter stands guard at the Spin Boldak border crossing in Afghanistan a day after shelling killed six Pakistani civilians in Chaman, a Pakistani city on the other side of the border. [EPA]

Border tensions between the neighbours have risen since the Taliban returned to power in August last year as Pakistan has alleged that armed groups such as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) use Afghan soil to launch attacks.

A ceasefire between Pakistan and the TTP, also known as the Pakistan Taliban, unravelled in November after nearly six months. The TTP, which shares an ideology with the Afghan Taliban, has been engaged in an uprising against Islamabad. It wants the implementation of religious law based on its strict interpretation of Islam.

Afghanistan’s Taliban, which had brokered the ceasefire, denies harbouring Pakistani fighters.

Thousands of people cross the border between Spin Boldak in Afghanistan and Chaman in Pakistan every day, including traders, Afghans seeking medical treatment in Pakistan and people visiting relatives.

Last month, a gunman fatally shot a Pakistani security guard at the Chaman border crossing, leading to its closure for a week.

A security guard was also wounded by shots fired at Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul this month in what Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called “an assassination attempt” on the head of the mission.

Pakistan’s foreign affairs minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, visited Kabul last month to discuss relations with Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies