'Afghan forces opened unprovoked fire on innocent civilians,' says FO on Chaman border clashes

Pakistan’s security forces “responded to protect our local population and acted only in self-defence”, says Foreign Office

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The entrance to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Islamabad. — Radio Pakistan/File

The government on Friday said that the violent clashes which took place at the Chaman border a day earlier came after “unprovoked fire” by Afghan forces.

“Afghan forces opened unprovoked fire on innocent civilians gathered towards Pakistan’s side of the international border,” read a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to the statement, Pakistan troops which were deployed on the posts by the Friendship Gate “were also simultaneously engaged by Afghan posts”.

The Foreign Office clarified that Pakistan’s security forces “responded to protect our local population and acted only in self-defence”.

“It is reiterated that Pakistan [forces] did not open fire first and responded in self-defence only,” said the FO statement.

It further stated that the Pakistani side “immediately activated both military and diplomatic channels” in order to de-escalate the situation and it was after hectic efforts that the firing from the Afghan side came to a halt.

The statement underlined that the Afghan borders were opened for pedestrian movement and trade, “upon the request of the 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 noted.

It said that owing to Eid ul Adha “pedestrians’ move [sic] was also allowed”.

“People gathered for this purpose were deliberately targeted by Afghan forces for incomprehensible reasons,” the FO said.

“This unfortunate incident resulted in numerous casualties and deliberate/serious damage to State infrastructure on the Pakistan side. 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,” the statement observed.

The FO said that despite the unfortunate incident, “Pakistan reiterates 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,” the statement concluded by saying.

Clashes after government put stop to smuggling

Earlier, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz said that the violent clashes occurred after the government put a stop to smuggling.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, the Faraz said that the borders of Torkham, Ghulam Khan, and Angor Ada were closed on account of Eid and in the light of the prevalent situation of coronavirus.

He said that after the border's closure, most of the people who had gathered to cross it, dispersed. However, a few hundred stayed behind.

"About 3,000 people used to come and go from the border every day," Faraz said.

The minister said that it was a few rogue elements among those who had stayed behind who incited the others to violence. "As a result, people tried to cross the borders forcefully."

Read more: Four killed, 19 injured in violent clashes at Chaman border

"When the checkposts were damaged, we were forced to retaliate," Faraz said, adding: "Shots were fired from across the border, which further worsened the situation."

"The government has put a stop to smuggling which has caused such elements to create a situation where the law and order is disturbed," the information minister noted.

Faraz said that Afghanistan is a land-locked country and most of its trade is done through Pakistan. In this regard, the minister said that the governments of both countries have mutually decided that the border will be opened soon to resume trading activities.

The minister said that Pakistan has always taken care of Afghanistan's imports, but observed that a lot of smuggling takes place at the Chaman border. "We have ramped up restrictions and keep a record of all activities taking place there."

He hoped that Kabul would cooperate in seeing to the enforcement of border rules.

Protest at Chaman border turns violent

Yesterday, at least four people were killed and 19 left injured during clashes between protesters and security forces at the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Hundreds of protesters belonging to the All Parties Traders Union had been staging a demonstration at the Friendship Gate in Chaman against the border's closure for the past two months.

The protesters, yesterday, reportedly forcibly removed the barricades placed in the area surrounding the gate and attempted to cross the border.

Furthermore, they had allegedly set fire to computers at a National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) office for border management, about 100 containers belonging to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) as well as tents and offices at a quarantine centre nearby.

Security forces had fired aerial shots to disperse the protesters. Additional troops of the Frontier Corps and Levies were also summoned to quell the protest.