Pakistan military on Tuesday lodged a strong protest with the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) troops stationed in Afghanistan for violating the country’s airspace and injuring two of its soldiers in North Waziristan after a cross-border attack.
According to the military, the incident took place at the Admi Kot Post in North Waziristan when the two Nato helicopters intruded into Pakistan’s airspace. “The troops at the post opened fire at the helicopters and, as a result of the exchange of fire, two of our soldiers were injured,” said an army spokesperson.
He added that Pakistan Army had lodged a protest and demanded a flag meeting. However, the Nato officials deny any incursion of airspace and claim the helicopters attacked the Pakistani post after they came under fire from across the border.
These two helicopters had been dispatched to support a coalition base, which was under intermittent fire in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, an unnamed Western military official told the BBC.
The helicopters came under fire twice from across the border and only returned fire when they were attacked a second time, the official claimed.
In response to Pakistan’s protest, a spokeswoman for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said: “Isaf is aware of the incident and is assessing it to determine what happened. This effort will be pursued in a co-operative manner using the border co-ordination centre partnership.”
The incident took place a day after Pakistan and the United States agreed on new rules of engagement that call for working together for any future action against the “high value targets” in Pakistan.
The Datakhel region, where the latest clash took place, is considered to have a stronghold of the Taliban militants headed by Hafiz Gul Bahadar and the Haqqani network. The US and Afghan authorities believe that these militants are involved in deadly attacks against the troops inside Afghanistan — a predominant factor why most of the US drone attacks are focused in this particular region of Waziristan.
This incident was a second blow to the Pakistan-Nato relationship. Last September, Pakistan suspended the main supply route for western forces in Afghanistan for several days after Nato choppers crossed the border from Afghanistan in an attack that killed three Pakistani soldiers. The supply route was reopened after a public apology and assurance from top Nato commanders that such incidents will not happen in the future.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2011.