Pakistan and Afghanistan have decided to set up a military ‘hotline’ in an effort to ease tensions triggered by cross-border raids and mortar shelling incidents.
The step is one of several measures the two neighbours have agreed to take to avoid the recurrence of such incidents, diplomats told The Express Tribune.
The move came at a meeting between Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and Afghan Ambassador Muhammad Umer Daudzai in Islamabad on Monday.
Both the foreign ministry and the Afghan embassy issued separate statements condemning “the loss of life and property by militants”.
The statement issued by the Afghan Embassy said Daudzai expressed concern over the alleged mortar shelling into the Afghan territory by Pakistan.
“Pakistan has regretted the loss of innocent lives and admitted that some rockets might have landed in Afghan territory when security forces were chasing militants,” said the statement.
However, a military official denied the charge, saying allegations were aimed at putting pressure on Pakistan after it protested over the cross-border raids into tribal areas by militants from Afghanistan.
According to Reuters, 56 members of the Pakistan security forces have been killed and 81 wounded in a series of militant attacks from Afghanistan over the past month.
But the foreign ministry handout said: “Pakistan condemns the loss of lives and destruction of property on both sides by the militants. We consider Afghanistan’s loss as our own loss. It is…imperative that efforts be redoubled by both sides to attain the objectives of shared peace and security and to enhance cooperation for shared development and prosperity.”
Both sides also agreed not to allow their respective soils to be used against each other.
Officials familiar with the meeting say the two sides believe that ‘enemies of peace’ are trying to create misunderstanding between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“There are elements on both sides of the border who do not want to see improved ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” commented an Afghan diplomat, who requested not to be named. However, he would not identify such elements.
Officials say both sides were not only concerned over the surge in terrorist attacks but also worried over the failure of US-led Nato forces to stop cross border attacks by Taliban militants in Pakistani border regions. Karzai government feels that it is more the responsibility of Nato troops to stop attacks inside Pakistan from Afghan side as they are mainly responsible for border security and not the Afghan army.
The Foreign Office confirmed that a meeting between the concerned military authorities will be held soon to enhance information-sharing and coordination between Pakistan-Afghanistan and Nato forces.
The agreement comes even as Pakistan said on Monday that dozens of Taliban infiltrated from Afghanistan to attack a check-post, killing a soldier and injuring another.
Army spokesperson Maj Gen Athar Abbas confirmed the attack in Bajaur, around three kilometres from the Afghan border while intelligence officials said at least four militants were also killed. Bajaur administration official Islam Zeb told AFP that more than 100 Afghan Taliban attacked the paramilitary checkpost in the Kitkot area of Mamoond district in Bajaur early on Monday.
(With additional input from Agencies)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2011.