Wednesday February 08, 2023

After hoisting white flags, Afghan forces resort to firing again

June 16, 2016

Afghan envoy denies agreeing to ceasefire

LANDIKOTAL: Despite agreeing to cease fire and hoisting white flags on both sides of the border, Afghan forces resorted to unprovoked firing late on Wednesday night. Two FC soldiers were injured as a result of the firing. Pakistani forces retaliated to the firing. The injured were transported to a nearby hospital.

Meanwhile, Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Umar Zakhilwal had denied that he had agreed to a ceasefire at Torkham during his meeting with Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif. In a statement on Facebook he rejected the impression that he agreed to the construction of a gate at Torkham and a ceasefire.   

The installation of the steel gate had become a bone of contention between Afghan and Pakistani border officials as the Afghans had objected to it even though the gate was being put up inside Pakistani territory. This had fuelled clashes at the Torkham border for the last three days. The gate had been removed when Pakistan was building the Torkham-Jalalabad road as part of its contribution to war-ravaged Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development.

The Pakistan Army’s Major Ali Jawad Changezi, who had sustained injuries later died at a hospital, while an Afghan soldier was also killed in the fierce exchange of fire in which light and heavy weapons were used. Several people, including soldiers, on both sides were wounded in the clashes.

Flags were hoisted on rooftops on both sides of the Torkham border as a display of a wish for peace. However, Pakistan Army troops backed by tanks and armoured personnel carriers (APCs) continued to hold their positions along the border to deter any likely aggression by the Afghan forces.

Curfew also remained in place for the third consecutive day in Torkham and the surrounding areas. Life has come to a standstill in the normally busy Torkham town on the border. The Afghan side of Torkham was also stated to be deserted due to the closure of the border. 

Pakistan's Customs House, import and export and customs clearing agents offices, hotels, restaurants and a lone PTDC motel at the Pakistani Torkham also remained closed. The businessmen and traders termed the tension between the two Muslims countries loss of billions of rupees every day.

Muhammad Jamil, who run import and export business via Afghanistan from China and Europe told this scribe that his seven containers loaded with solar panels, generators and other home appliances had been stranded in Afghanistan for the last a few days. He said due to the border closure he had to pay Afghan tax and transportation charges daily. He said several businessmen known to him had also been suffering losses due the tension at Torkham border since last four days.

An official of the Pakistan Customs who wished anonymity told this correspondent that most of the trucks loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables were asked to unload their goods in Peshawar due to closure of the border.

"It is a big loss for the businessmen to unload trucks loaded with Afghanistan-bound goods in Peshawar," said the official. Many of these trucks had reached Torkham but were turned back and sent to Peshawar.

The schools and medical facilities both in Pakistani Torkham and Afghanistan's Torkham and adjacent areas of the border town also remained closed to avoid harm due to the clashes on the border, sources said. They said that three private and a government school were operating at the Pakistani Torkham and Bacha Mina village most of their students were Afghans. The schooling of around 1,500 children in these schools had been affected. Around 500 boys and girls were coming from Afghanistan via Torkham border to study at these schools in Pakistan.

Wednesday was the first day in recent days when no exchange of fire took place at the Torkham border. The peace brought a sense of relief to the people living in the border area as the people hoped that the issue would be resolved peacefully.