QUETTA: Tense calm prevailed along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border at Chaman a day after 12 Pakistanis – mostly civilians – were killed in unprovoked cross-border firing by Afghan forces, which was responded to in a befittingly manner.
Border guards from the two countries were on alert on Saturday, locked in an eyeball-to-eyeball standoff, as a second flag meeting between their commanders ended fruitlessly, with cross-border traffic remaining suspended. A flag meeting, held on Friday evening after the deadly skirmishes, had also failed to reach a decision.
According to official sources, Saturday’s meeting continued for more than an hour. Sector Commander of the Frontier Corps North Brigadier Nadeem Sohail represented Pakistan while General Ahmedi of the Afghan National Army (ANA) led his country’s delegation. The two sides discussed the issue and pleaded their stance about the incident.
“The flag meeting ended without any concrete decision,” a security official said, adding that the Pakistani officials reiterated that the villages where a census was being conducted belonged to Pakistan.
Friday’s clashes were triggered when Afghan border guards shot at Pakistani troops escorting a census team carrying out the headcount in Killi Luqman and Killi Jahangir villages of Chaman.
The villages, which straddle the border, have long been a source of contention between the two countries. Kabul claims the villages are part of Afghanistan’s Spin Boldak district, but Islamabad rejects the claim.
“The Afghan general and his delegation went back to Afghanistan without any decision,” a source said, adding that more meetings at this level could not be ruled out.
Meanwhile, Pakistan deployed more army and FC troops along the border. The Afghan government also withdrew police from the border area and deployed army personnel.
Authorities concerned have asked people living in villages close to the border to shift to safer areas. Most residents of border villages have already done so. “Now, there is no movement of people and vehicles in the border areas,” a senior official of the Chaman administration said.
Hundreds of trucks and other vehicles, carrying Afghan transit trade goods and NATO supplies, remained stranded on both sides of the border. “The Friendship Gate will not open till the issue is resolved,” said an official.
All educational institutions in Chaman remained closed on the directives of local authorities.
Meanwhile, the director general of Balochistan’s provincial disaster management authority (PDMA), Muhammad Tariq, said that around 2,000 families were affected by the situation. He said that on the chief minister’s directives, the PDMA has sent 19 truckloads of relief goods to Chaman. “
Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri has already announced Rs150 million to cover the damages in Chaman. He also announced that the provincial government would compensate the victims’ families in accordance with its policy.
Meanwhile, the Balochistan United Front staged a noisy demonstration outside the Afghan consulate in Quetta to condemn the unprovoked firing by Afghan forces.