Border clashes threaten Pak-Afghan thaw

Border clashes threaten Pak-Afghan thaw

Kamran Yousaf,

Pakistan and Afghanistan began efforts to defuse tensions after cross-border skirmishes on Sunday left at least 2 Pakistani paramilitary soldiers martyred and many others wounded.

The incident – happened along the border with Afghanistan in Kurram Agency – threatened to derail recent agreement reached between the two neighbours to improve their bilateral ties, officials familiar with the development told the Express Tribune.

However, they said Pakistan was making all-out efforts to ensure that the border clashes did not undermine rapprochement between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

One official confirmed that soon after the border clashes, senior military officials from both sides established contact to avoid further escalation.

During the recent visit of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to Kabul, both the sides agreed to take a series of steps – including better coordination between the two militaries – in order to avoid any misunderstanding.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) confirmed in a statement that the two militaries were engaged to defuse the situation.

The military’s media wing also added that Pakistan was exercising maximum restraint to avoid civilian casualties on the Afghan side of the border.

A senior Foreign Office official told The Express Tribune that Pakistan has been making efforts to improve bilateral ties with Afghanistan.

The official, who requested anonymity, said such border incidents were unfortunate and could have a negative impact.

However, the official maintained that Pakistan would abide by the understanding reached between the two sides during Prime Minister Abbasi’s visit to Kabul.

The prime minister paid a daylong visit to Kabul on April 6 as part of renewed push by the two sides to resolve their differences through dialogue.

The two countries agreed to operationalise working groups under Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS).

While Pakistan reaffirmed its support to the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process, the two countries decided to undertake “effective actions against fugitives and the irreconcilable elements posing security threats to either of the two countries”.

At the same time both countries committed to deny use of their respective territory by any country, network, group or individuals for anti-state activities against either country.

The two sides also decided to put in place a joint supervision, coordination and confirmation mechanism through Liaison Officers (LOs) for realisation of the agreed actions.

The two countries also committed to avoid territorial and aerial violations of each other’s territory.

In another major step to build confidence, the two countries agreed to avoid public blame game and instead use APAPPS cooperation mechanisms to respond to mutual issues of contention and concerns.

It was because of the understanding that reaction from both sides to the latest border incident was very careful.