In the last few days Pakistani security forces are said to have killed many militants trying to make their way into Upper Dir across the Afghan border. This problem has continued for some time as militants based in neighbouring Afghan areas attempt to re-establish a hold in areas inside Pakistan. We are told that the incursions are planned and led by none other than Mulana Fazlullah, the man who not long ago had established a rule of terror in the Swat valley. A large number of members of his faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan belonged to Dir. They were driven away as the Pakistan Army regained control of the Malakand area. Fazlullah was able to escape. We may now be paying the price for failing to capture him at that time. Pakistan has protested to the Afghan authorities about the recent actions of militants from the Afghan side of the frontier into Pakistani territory, but to no avail. Kabul too has been accusing Pakistan of backing militants based in North Waziristan, who it says stage attacks in Afghanistan. Also, Kabul is now saying that it will report to the UN Security Council that Pakistan has been shelling villages along its side of the border. It alleges that in Afghanistan’s Kunar province thousands of villagers have fled their homes because of ‘Pakistani rocket shelling.’
Pakistani troops have done well to hold back the Afghanistan-based militants. But it is clear that these matters can never be put to rest unless both sides cooperate in a joint effort to end the militancy which has so badly shaken Afghanistan and Pakistan. The acrimony between the leaders of the two countries does not help matters in any way. Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf is going to visit Kabul in the near future and these border clashes are expected to be high on the agenda. The entire length of our border with Afghanistan is anyway noted for its porosity — guns, drugs, insurgents — but that porosity is now translating into a border-long instability that is regularly punctuated by deadly encounters. The fact that Pakistani soldiers are engaged at checkpoints in Upper Dir means they are less able to deal with militancy elsewhere. Information about specific militant groups and their locations certainly exist in both Kabul and Islamabad. We need to share this information and act jointly to tackle a problem which has plagued us for long. Neither country can succeed on its own and accusations won’t help.