Pakistan’s patience ‘running thin’ with Taliban

Pakistan seems to have run out of patience with the Afghan Taliban regime as in a strongly worded statement, the Foreign Office on Sunday asked the Afghanistan government to secure Pak-Afghan border region and take stern actions against the individuals involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan, in the interest of peace and progress of the two brotherly countries.

“Pakistan, once again, strongly condemns terrorists operating with impunity from Afghan soil to carry out activities in Pakistan. This is detrimental to our efforts of maintaining peace and stability along Pak-Afghan Border,” Foreign Office Spokesperson said while responding to media queries regarding recent incidents along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

In the last few days, incidents along Pak-Afghan border had significantly increased, in which Pakistani security forces were being targeted from across the border. Pakistan and Afghanistan had been engaged for past several months through institutional channels for effective coordination and security along their long-shared border. Pakistan has repeatedly requested Afghan government in the last few months to secure Pak-Afghan border region as the terrorists were using Afghan soil with impunity to carry out activities inside Pakistan, the spokesperson said.

Unfortunately, elements of banned terrorist groups in the border region, including TTP, continued to attack Pakistan’s border security posts, resulting into martyrdom of several Pakistani troops. On April 14 as well, seven Pakistan Army soldiers were martyred in North Waziristan district by terrorists operating from Afghanistan, he added. “Pakistan also takes this opportunity to reaffirm respect for Afghanistan’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Pakistan will continue to work closely with Afghan government to strengthen bilateral relations in all fields,” the spokesperson reiterated. Border tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan have risen since the Taliban seized power last year, with Islamabad claiming militant groups are carrying out regular attacks from Afghan soil. The Taliban deny harbouring Pakistani militants, but are also infuriated by a fence Islamabad is erecting along their 2,700-kilometre border.

Fresh tension erupted after five children and a woman were killed in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Kunar on Saturday in alleged rocket attacks that Afghan officials blamed on the Pakistan. The death toll from air strikes has jumped to at least 47, Afghan officials claimed Sunday. “Forty-one civilians, mainly women and children, were killed and 22 others were wounded in air strikes by Pakistani forces near the Durand line in Khost province,” Shabir Ahmad Osmani, director of information and culture in Khost told AFP.

Najibullah, an official with the Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Khost said the death toll in the province was 48. “Twenty-four people were killed from one family itself,” he said. Jamshid, a tribal leader from Khost, also confirmed that more than 40 people had died. “I went with several people to donate blood for treating the wounded in Khost strike,” Jamshid said. Another government official in Khost on condition of anonymity said he saw “42 graves” of people killed, adding that a few people were missing. “Faces and bodies of some were charred and beyond recognition,” Abdul Wahab, a religious scholar from Khost who helped bury some victims said.

TOLO News, Afghanistan’s leading private TV channel, continued to show gruesome footage of scattered blood and debris of damaged houses in the assault in Khost.

While the Pakistani military has not confirmed whether it carried out the assault, Islamabad insisted it was facing continuous “terrorist” attacks from across the border.

“Pakistan, once again, strongly condemns terrorists operating with impunity from Afghan soil to carry out activities in Pakistan,” the foreign ministry said in the statement. “Pakistan requests the sovereign Government of Afghanistan to secure Pak-Afghan Border region and take stern actions against the individuals involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan.” Seven Pakistani soldiers were killed in North Waziristan district on Thursday by “terrorists operating from Afghanistan”, the ministry said.

Areas along the border have long been a stronghold for militant groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which operates across the porous frontier with Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban and the TTP are separate groups in both countries, but share a common ideology and draw from people who live on either side of the border.

Thousands of people usually cross the border daily, including traders, Afghans seeking medical treatment in Pakistan, and people visiting relatives. Afghanistan’s Taliban government meanwhile warned Pakistan after the rocket attack. “This is a cruelty and it is paving the way for enmity between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said late on Saturday. “The Pakistani side should know that if a war starts it will not be in the interest of any side.”

A day earlier, the FO had said it was “looking into” reports of alleged action by Pakistani forces in the eastern Afghan provinces of Kunar and Khost. Also Saturday, an Afghan Foreign Ministry statement said Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Deputy Defence Minister Mullah Shirin Akhund met with the Pakistani ambassador and condemned the recent attacks on Khost and Kunar provinces, stressing prevention of such acts. “Minister Muttaqi said all military violations, including that in Khost and Kunar must be prevented as such acts deteriorate relations between the two countries, allowing antagonists to misuse the situation leading to undesired consequences,” the statement said.

It added the Pakistani envoy was given a strong demarche. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also condemned the alleged attacks. “IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) calls on the Pakistani side not to test the patience of Afghans on such issues.” He added: “Problems between the two countries must be resolved through political means.”

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