Pakistan on Friday said that the firing incident at its border with Afghanistan in Chaman, which resulted in casualties, was an act of self-defence to protect the local population.
People were protesting against the closure of the Chaman border due to Covid-19 as they had to cross into Afghanistan to celebrate Eidul Azha. However, according to the Foreign Office, people gathered for this purpose were deliberately targeted by Afghan forces for incomprehensible reasons.
According to a statement issued by the Foreign Office, "It is reiterated that the Pakistani force did not open fire first and responded in self-defence only."
The FO said, "Pakistani troops responded to protect our local population and acted only in self-defence."
It said that at the Friendship Gate in Chaman on Thursday, the Afghan forces opened unprovoked fire on innocent civilians gathered towards the Pakistani side of the international border.
Pakistan troops deployed on the posts were also simultaneously engaged by Afghan posts, it said.
"To de-escalate the situation, the Pakistani side immediately activated both military and diplomatic channels and it was after hectic efforts that the firing was stopped from the Afghan side," it said.
The FO said, "It must be noted that the borders with Afghanistan were opened for pedestrian movement and trade upon the request of Afghan authorities.
"Pakistan is undertaking concerted efforts to ensure regulated movement of trade between the two countries, which are being challenged by elements opposed to such regulation."
It mentioned that due to Eidul Azha, pedestrians' movement was also allowed.
People gathered for this purpose were deliberately targeted by Afghan forces for incomprehensible reasons.
"This unfortunate incident resulted in numerous casualties and deliberate/serious damage to state infrastructure on the Pakistani side," it said.
The statement mentioned that there were, reportedly, unfortunate losses on the Afghan side as well.
"All this could have been avoided if fire had not been initiated from the Afghan side," it said.
Pakistan reiterated its sincere readiness to further enhance fraternal relations with Afghanistan in the interest of peace and stability in the region. "We hope our constructive efforts will be reciprocated," it said.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters that the matter had been taken up with Afghan authorities and hoped it would be resolved amicably.
Addressing a news conference on Friday, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz said that “we retaliated after our posts” at the Chaman border with Afghanistan were targeted.
“Some people enticed others and they tried to cross the post forcefully,” the information minister said. “We have separate borders with Afghanistan. Pakistan closed its borders with Afghanistan due to Covid. Our posts along the Pak-Afghan border in Chaman were targeted and damaged due to which we retaliated.”
Faraz described Afghanistan as a landlocked country, saying that important items reach Afghanistan through “our border”.
“We opened the border for one day so that important items could reach Afghanistan. We closed the border ahead of Eidul Azha,” Faraz said, adding that Pakistan and Afghanistan are brotherly countries.
“We have always taken steps for the betterment of Afghanistan. The government intensified the SOPs implementation drive along the borders to keep them safe in line with best international practices.”
Faraz said another basic reason for the tension is that smuggling is affected when the border is closed. “And there is a high probability of smuggling through borders.”
“We will increase our relations with the Afghan government and its people. We will request the Afghan government for cooperation as we facilitate trade with it.”
Earlier, the exchange of fire between the Pakistan and Afghan forces along the Chaman border stopped after the intervention of tribal leader and MPA Asghar Khan Achakzai, who held contacts with Afghan officials.
However, the Pak-Afghan border situation remains tense as three more people were injured in firing by security forces after protesters turned violent.
Balochistan Home Minister Zia Langove and other senior officials met leaders of the sit-in in Chaman. Minister Zamrak Khan, MPA Achakzai and Frontier Corps officials held a detailed meeting to end the ongoing conflict.
Additional troops of the Frontier Corps and Levies were also summoned to keep the situation under control.
Medical Superintendent of the DHQ hospital where the injured, including Levies personnel, were shifted, described their condition as critical.
The protesters also tried to stage a protest outside the hospital but they were dispersed by security forces firing teargas shells.
ANP, a coalition party in the Balochistan government, held protests all over the province against the tragic incident at the Pak-Afghan border, calling for an inquiry and bringing all responsible to justice.
On Thursday, a protest against the closure of the border was held. Three protesters were killed and more than 20 others injured while burning down a quarantine centre for coronavirus patients. Over 1,000 tents, computer rooms of NADRA office were destroyed in the fire.
With additional input from agencies