Review Afghan policy

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ON the heels of an otherwise firm assurance by the Taliban Government that there would be no repetition of border clashes, there is another incident of intense firing by the Afghan security forces in Chaman area on Thursday leading to the killing of one person and injuries to twelve others.

Previously, cross-border shelling and gunfire killed eight Pakistani civilians and one Afghan soldier on Sunday near the same crossing, which connects Balochistan with the southern Afghan province of Kandahar.

That the firing was deliberate is evident from the fact that the Afghan forces attacked Pakistani personnel who were engaged in the repair of the border fence damaged during the previous clash.

According to Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif the Afghan side apologized after the Sunday incident but recurrence of the clashes confirms the widely-held belief that it was all with purpose.

The designs of the Afghan side are quite obvious – it wants to sabotage the border fencing mechanism to allow for a free for all smuggling and cross border movement.

Chaman-Spin Boldak is the second busiest crossing between the two countries and a key trade route through which large quantities of critical goods move in and out of landlocked Afghanistan and Kabul authorities obviously want no restriction on movement of goods.

It is strange that for years the rulers in Kabul have been accusing Pakistan of facilitating cross-border movement and now that the country is about to complete the fencing project at a huge cost, the Afghan side wants to undermine it through different tactics.

It is time the Afghan side should be conveyed a strong and unequivocal message that conspiracies against a project designed to curb illegal movement would not be tolerated.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) has rightly called the incident as ‘uncalled-for aggression’ and that Pakistani troops gave a “befitting” but “measured response” and avoided targeting the civilians on the other side.

However, there should be a limit to restraint and a firm response both on ground as well as through diplomatic channels is warranted when cooperative gestures of the country are responded in this manner.

A high level delegation comprising civilian and military officials should be dispatched to Kabul to take up these and other related issues.