ISLAMABAD: Pakistani sources and Afghan officials have blamed Ambassador Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal for creating ‘misunderstanding’ that led to the border clashes between the two countries.
“The border tension is the result of misunderstandings created by the Afghan ambassador in Islamabad. He had made a commitment in a meeting with army chief Gen Raheel Sharif on May 13 that Pakistan should continue construction work at Torkham but open the border,” a Pakistani source claimed.
“It seems that either he [Zakhilwal] had not conveyed his commitment to his government or the Kabul administration did not approve of his proposal,” the source told The Express Tribune. “He [Zakhilwal] is responsible for the current crisis,” he alleged.
Zakhilwal had met Gen Raheel after Pakistani authorities closed the Torkham border crossing in May following unprovoked firing by Afghan security forces in a bid to disrupt fencing of the border by Pakistani authorities.
Afghanistan’s former spymaster, Amrullah Saleh, also accused Zakhilwal of ‘agreeing’ to what he called ‘Pakistan’s controversial plan’ to construct the gate at Torkham. Zakhilwal rejected Saleh’s allegation as his “ignorance of facts or narrow-minded approach”.
He also denied that he had agreed to the construction of Torkham gate in the May 13 meeting with Gen Raheel. “This is categorically false,” he wrote on his official Facebook page. “The discussion in that meeting was about an agreement that was reached between our ministry of defence (MoD) and Pakistan Army [in a] joint meeting on Dec 13, 2015 in which our MoD-led delegation had given no objection to a fence the Pakistan Army planned to erect about a 100 metres from the zero point towards Pakistan,” he claimed.
“The Pakistan Army delegation had agreed to vacate …the currently occupied positions in Angoor Adda [in South Waziristan Agency] since they were deeply inside the Afghan territory, and transfer all the building faculties to the Afghan security forces.”
Since then the fence in Torkham has been erected and Angoor Adda positions have partly been vacated, Zakhilwal added. The currently planned border gates that triggered the ongoing fighting in Torkham were discussed with our MoD-led delegation only two days ago in Torkham to which our side did not agree,” he claimed.
Amrullah Saleh, the former chief of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, refused to buy this claim. The Afghan government has ‘received information’ that Zakhilwal had agreed to the construction of the gate during his meeting with Pakistan’s army chief. Saleh, an ethnic Tajik who now leads his Afghanistan Green Trend political party, demanded that Kabul sack Ambassador Zakhilwal and put him on trial.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2016.
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