Senior military officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States military met in Peshawar on Thursday in an effort to defuse tensions sparked by days of cross-border raids and mortar shelling incidents between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The trilateral meeting of the Military Border Working Group convened at Islamabad’s request after it raised serious concerns on the militant raids from Afghanistan into Pakistan.
During the meeting, a comprehensive review of the situation was undertaken so as to ensure the sanctity of the international border, said a statement issued by the Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR).
The Pakistan Army, it said, proposed a series of measures to bring a swift end to repeated incursions by the militants from Afghanistan. The steps included the establishment of a single point of contact with all Afghan National Security Forces through a hotline between Pak Army and Afghan National Army.
The army also suggested regular border flag meetings between local commanders and interaction/jirgas between Maliks of bordering villages living on either side of the border.
For weeks, security forces on both sides of the border have issued claim and counter-claim over cross-border rocket and guerilla attacks that have reportedly killed dozens of residents and forced hundreds of others to flee.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai told Pakistan’s army chief Ashfaq Kayani the attacks must stop, the Pakistanis summoned the Afghan ambassador and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani complained back to Karzai.
“We believe that this seriously hurts our relations with Pakistan and this endangers the war on terror,” Afghan presidency spokesman Hamid Elmi told AFP.
Pakistan says at least 55 members of the security forces and tribal police have been killed over in cross-border raids by militants from Afghanistan.
However, the Afghan government has launched counter-allegations against the Pakistan Army for firing rockets into eastern Afghanistan since May, killing at least 40 people.
The ongoing border tensions have threatened to undermine years of hard work from both sides to narrow down their differences on key strategic issues.
Latest Upper Dir raid
Two local lashkar volunteers, who had earlier been abducted by militants during a cross-border raid into the Nusrat Darra area in Upper Dir district, managed to escape from the custody of militants, sources told The Express Tribune. The volunteers were identified as Bawar Khan and Zarghon.
The volunteers were abducted by Afghan militants who had raided the area late on Wednesday from Afghanistan, only to be beaten back by the security forces. Security sources said that at least 14 militants were killed in skirmishes, while security forces managed to push the militants back.
At least 150 militants were part of the raid in the Nusrat Darra area in which militants also destroyed a mosque, The Express Tribune learnt. The commanders were identified as Omar Tariq and Abu Musa. This was the second attack of the month in the Nusrat Darra area. (With additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2011.