Pak-Afghan border fencing issue to be resolved subtly: FM

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Offers India to attend SAARC summit virtually

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday acknowledged that there were “some complications” pertaining to the fencing of Pak-Afghan border but added that the matter was being discussed with the Afghan Taliban government as he blamed “certain miscreants” for blowing such incidents out of proportion.

Qureshi made these remarks during a press conference in Islamabad when he was asked about a video circulating on social media purportedly showing Taliban fighters uprooting a portion of the fence along the Pak-Afghan border, claiming that the fencing had been erected inside Afghan territory. In a separate video being shared on Twitter, Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman Enayatul-lah Khwarzmi was seen saying that Pakistan had no right to fence the border and create a divide, adding that such a move was “inappropriate and against the law”.

This is not the first time such videos have made the rounds on social media. Last month a video went vi-ral on Twitter that showed Taliban soldiers seizing spools of barbed wire, with a senior official asking Paki-stani soldiers stationed at security posts in the distance not to try to fence the border again.

The fencing was the main reason behind the souring of relations between previous US-backed Afghan government (led by Ashraf Ghani) and Islamabad. The current standoff indicates the issue remains a con-tentious matter for the Taliban, despite their close ties to Islamabad.

The minister, however, downplayed the incident, saying, “Certain miscreants are raising this issue un-necessarily, but we are looking into it and we are in contact with the Afghan government. Hopefully, we would be able to resolve the issue diplomatically.”

While Qureshi said the issue was being blown up by certain miscreants, Taliban spokesman and Afghani-stan’s acting information minister Zabihullah Mujahid’s statement seems to suggest otherwise. Mujahid said there was no need for border fencing by Pakistan as the issue of the Durand Line had not yet been resolved.

“The issue of the Durand Line is still an unresolved one, while the construction of fencing itself creates rifts between a nation spread across both sides of the border. It amounts to dividing a nation,” Mujahid said in a recent interview with a local YouTube channel in Kabul.

Qureshi also offered India to join the summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation virtually if Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot come to Islamabad to attend the summit.

“Pakistan considers SAARC as an important forum. We are willing to host the 19th SAARC summit and if India has any issue in attending the summit in person then it can attend the moot virtually,” Foreign Minis-ter Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a newsmen.

Islamabad was scheduled to host the SAARC summit in November 2016, but India boycotted the confer-ence because of tensions between the two countries.

Since then the summit could not take place as per the SAARC charter meeting of the heads of govern-ment cannot be held if any of the members refuses to participate.

“If India cannot attend the summit in Islamabad at least it should not stop other members,” the foreign minister said extending an invitation to all members for the next summit.


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