ISLAMABAD - Fresh spate of cross-border hostility looms in the rural Khyber Pakh-tunkhwa following deadly skirmishes between security forces and unidentified armed men at the Afghan side of the border just months after Pakistan’s military claimed to have cleared the area.
After months of silence, Frontier Corps (FC) and armed groups based in Afghanistan’s Kunar province that borders Pakistan’s Upper Dir district purportedly exchanged fire on Friday. Consequently, some five Afghans and an FC official reportedly lost their lives.
The exchange of fire started at around 10:00 a.m. was said to have continued for about a couple of hours. The military officials alleged that Afghan militants had tried to attack Kharakar check post located at the road adjoining Barawal and Maidan villages in Upper Dir claiming that the attack was foiled. The number of casualties and injuries could not be verified from any independent source.
On the other hand, Kunar’s Provincial Government Spokesman Wasifullah Wasifi said the attackers had come from Pakistan’s side of the border and were patronised by Pakistani militants. “They were terrorists from Pakistan who carried out this misadventure to malign Afghanistan,” he told TheNation.
“We’ll probe to find out if these terrorists belonged to Haqqani Network, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Islam or any other militant group. They tried to malign us by putting blame on us without any initial investigation,” he said referring to accusations from Pakistani security officials.
According to the spokesman, the number of causalities was not known.
The District Coordination officer (DCO) Upper Dir Riaz Mehsud, when approached, said the security forces were ‘taking care’ of the situation. “It happened in the Barawal area. There have been some reported casualties but exact number is not known.
The security forces are taking care of the situation. We (district administration) are not involved,” he told this newspaper by phone.
In September last, Pakistan Army had launched a crackdown following deployment of additional troops in Chitral and Upper Dir to take on what it termed as repeated cross-border incursions by Afghan militants at border areas.
Military troops mostly from Swat and Malakand Division were moved to Maidan in Upper Dir that is the native town of the detained terrorist and Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM) Chief Maulana Sufi Muhammad, reportedly under detention in Dera Ismail Khan.
The military officials had told The Nation then, the additional troops deployment would augment the already deployed troops of Frontier Corps (FC) in Chitral and Upper Dir.
As part of the new strategy devised then (in September), the newly deployed troops and already deputed FC personnel were brought under the direct command of the 19th Division, a Pakistan Army’s military division that has maximum concentration in Swat and Malakand division.
In August lat year, hundreds of militants had attacked the adjoining belt of Drosh in Chitral and reportedly destroyed Pakistani paramilitary forces check posts.
Resultantly, 25 Pakistani soldiers including officials of Chitral Scouts, a sub-division of FC, lost their lives. A month earlier, a similar incident was reported to have taken place in the Nusrat Darra village of Upper dir that was allegedly attacked by the Afghan militants from the bordering Kunar and Nursitan provinces
Upon the conclusion of joint Pak-Saudi military exercises last year, Pakistan’s Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani had said that military had taken adequate measures to avert cross-border attacks from Afghan militants.
“Any incursion from Afghan side of the border would get befitting response,” he said. In the months that followed, border skirmishes had stopped in Upper Dir and Chitral as army said it had cleared the area of militants and taken ‘foolproof’ arrangements to avert attacks from the Afghan side. The recurrence of such incidents however questions the credibility of military’s claims.