Governor of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, Fazalullah Waheedi, on Friday denied charges that Pakistani Taliban militants had established bases in Afghanistan and invited the Pakistan government to share information about their presence in the country’s border regions.
Pakistan Army spokesperson Major General Athar Abbas on Thursday had said that Afghanistan’s eastern provinces of Kunar and Nuristan have become a sanctuary for attacks into Pakistan by a host of Pakistani militant groups and their leaders. General Abbas told BBC Urdu that these groups are now conducting cross-border raids into Pakistan.
Governor Waheedi, however, denied these claims saying that the Pakistani Taliban have not established bases in Afghanistan. “These people are not in Afghanistan and if found, we will take action against them,” Waheedi told The Express Tribune via phone.
General Abbas had also said that Taliban leader from Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, deputy chief Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, Taliban leader from Mohmand Agency, Abdul Wali and TTP Chief Hakeemullah are now operating from border regions in Afghanistan. Maulvi Faqir and Maulvi Fazalulah had confirmed their presence in Afghanistan in several media interviews while Faqir was interviewed by an Afghan journalist in Kunar last month.
“If Pakistan has proof, it must share intelligence with us,” the governor said, adding Afghan security forces can help the Pakistanis deal with militants. “Pakistani and Afghan Taliban are the same for us. We do not see any difference between them,” Governor Waheedi said.
The governor also disagreed with General Abbas’ assertion that the Pakistani Taliban established bases in Afghanistan after US and Nato troops left Kunar province. He said US troops were never present in the areas pointed out by General Abbas. The governor said that US troops were only stationed in Ghakhi Pass area, which was very close to the border. “Pakistani forces had very strong presence on their side of the Durand Line and even they could have stopped the movement of Pakistani militants wanting to sneak into Afghanistan,” Waheedi alleged.
Afghan officials meanwhile confirmed that the Afghan Taliban occupied remote mountainous areas in the Nuristan province after the US forces left two districts - Bargi Matal and Kamdesh last year.
Governor of Nuristan claimed last year that Pakistani Taliban led by Swat Taliban chief Maulvi Fazaullah had joined the Afghan Taliban in Nuristan.
Spokesman for Afghan Taliban Zabihullah Mujahid earlier this month told The Express Tribune via phone that no Pakistani Taliban ever helped the Afghan Taliban in fighting against the US-led Nato forces or the Afghan forces. He also dispelled the impression that Afghan Taliban are hosting Pakistani militants.
Replying to a question, Governor Waheedi claimed that Pakistani forces fired hundreds of rockets and artillery shells into his province, killing and injuring dozens of civilians. “I am ready to provide proof of the casualties and property damage as a result of shelling from Pakistan,” Waheedi said.
Former Afghan Defence Minister Shahnawaz Tanai in a telephonic interview told The Express Tribune that there is a strong possibility of the presence of Pakistani Taliban in Afghan border regions as militants in both sides have been supporting each other from time to time.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2011.
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