Concerns conveyed to Afghan Taliban on fencing incidents

Videos show Taliban soldiers at the border breaking polls using a truck


Kamrani Yousaf January 03, 2022
PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

ISLAMABAD:

Pakistan has conveyed its concerns at the highest level to the interim Afghan Taliban government over the repeated incidents where some local Taliban soldiers tried to remove fencing along the border.

The Afghan Taliban leadership was told that Pakistan was observing "maximum restraint" to avoid any escalation in tensions, a senior Pakistani official told The Express Tribune here on Sunday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. Nevertheless, Pakistan is expected to issue a formal statement on the issue within 24 hours, as per official sources.

In recent weeks, there have been repeated incidents along the Pak-Afghan border where some local Taliban soldiers tried to remove the fence.

The first incident took place on December 18, a day before Pakistan was to host an extraordinary conference of the foreign ministers of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Afghanistan’s humanitarian situation. The acting Afghan foreign minister also attended the daylong meeting, which agreed to set up a trust fund to help Afghanistan prevent the humanitarian catastrophe.

A video circulated on social media showed Taliban soldiers seizing spools of barbed wire and one senior official warning Pakistani soldiers stationed at security posts not to try to fence the border again.

On Sunday, another video was shared on the social media showing Taliban fighters breaking polls one after the other using a truck.

As per Kabul News, in a video statement the Afghan defence ministry spokesperson said they would not allow fencing since it "divides" the families on both sides of the border. There was no formal reaction from Pakistan to the remarks.

But officials in background discussions said Pakistan was taking up the issue at all levels. According to Pakistan’s assessment, there seems some local Taliban commanders who were provoking Pakistani forces on their own. Pakistan, the official pointed out, was observing maximum restraint. One official claimed that the Afghan Taliban leadership was also worried about the conduct of their low-level soldiers since they understood the importance of Pakistan cooperation in this difficult juncture.

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The official also said there were other elements such as smugglers who might be trying to exploit the situation. "That is why we are handling the situation with care," the official said.

The official said there were other major issues to deal with and hence Pakistan did not want to get bogged down with these incidents. "We are looking at a bigger picture. There may be elements in Afghanistan who want to provoke us," the official said.

But Pakistan, in a formal statement, is likely to make it clear that there will be no compromise on the border since it is a settled issue. The fencing would also continue, according to the official.

The latest incident happened despite earlier claims by a senior official that both sides had resolved the issue.

The fencing of the 2600-kilometre-long and rugged border has remained one of the contentious issues between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The previous administration in Kabul also objected to the fencing of the border and even the Afghan side tried to stop Pakistan from erecting a fence.

Pakistan, however, went ahead with the fencing and as per officials, 90 per cent of the border with Pakistan is now fenced. The fencing is part of the border mechanism Pakistan has been working on for years in order to not just regulate the movement of people but to also deny terrorists on both sides to shuttle between the two borders easily.

The fencing of the border has remained one of the contentious issues even during the previous administration. There were even border clashes in the past causing casualties. But Pakistan never backtracked from fencing the border as it considered the initiative as vital to prevent free movement of terrorists. In the past, Islamabad questioned Kabul's opposition to the fencing as it would benefit both sides.

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