ISLAMABAD: Pakistani and Afghan delegations met in Islamabad on Monday to discuss border management and last week’s skirmishes at Torkham, said a statement of Foreign Office.
The delegation, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai, visited Islamabad on the invitation of Prime Minister’s foreign policy adviser Sartaj Aziz to discuss a nearly week-long standoff at the border.
The Pakistan side was represented by Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry.
Torkham – the busiest border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan in Khyber Agency – reopened Saturday morning after it was closed for six days following deadly clashes between the border guards of the two militancy-plagued neighbours.
The fighting was triggered on June 12 by an Afghan security forces attempt to disrupt the construction of a gate well within the Pakistani territory.
Both sides later declared ceasefire and the border was opened on Saturday. However, troops and tanks have been deployed by both sides.
The talks were held in a cordial atmosphere marked by a mutual desire to amicably resolve border related issues. Both sides decided to work in the spirit of good neighbourly relations and cooperation between the two countries.
The two sides agreed to share their ideas with the leadership, as these will be discussed during a meeting between the Sartaj Aziz and Afghan Foreign Minister on the sidelines of the forthcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Tashkent from June 23-24, 2016.
The need for creating a suitable mechanism for consultation on border management issues for also emphasised during the meeting.
The participants agreed on effective border management being vital for promoting peace, countering terrorism and strengthening relations between the two countries.
Afghan Deputy Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai also paid a courtesy call on Sartaj Aziz.
Pakistan has started introducing a new border mechanism at the Torkham border from June 1. Under the new border controls, Pakistan has made it clear that no one would be allowed to cross the border without a valid passport and a visa.
Official sources say Pakistan will stick to its position with regard to the new border rules.
Sartaj Aziz has already spelt out Islamabad’s stance in a policy statement in which he said the new border rules had been introduced as part of the government’s counterterrorism strategy to check infiltration of terrorists from Afghanistan.
He reiterated in a BBC interview on Sunday that the gate would be built at all costs. “Pakistan is neither violating any bilateral agreement with Afghanistan nor any international law,” he said and warned that Pakistan would retaliate if attacked again.
Aziz said the issue of terrorism and smuggling could not be tackled until some sort of border management system was put in place at the Pak-Afghan border. Almost 50,000 people cross the Torkham border without questioning. “These travellers include all types of people. We told Afghanistan in May that from June 1, no one will be allowed to cross the border without valid travel documents,” he added.
Aziz said Afghanistan wanted Pakistan to stop construction of the Torkham gate. “However, we are building the gate on our side of the border, and we do not need anyone’s permission.” After its completion, the gate, which, he said, was being built 30-35 metres inside Pakistan’s territory, would be opened for traffic.