Pak-Afghan relation comes under stress due to Pak bombings across the border
The bonhomie between Taliban led Afghan regime and Pakistan government is
coming under stress due to failures in keeping their respective commitments to
each other. This has come to surface in a matter of less than a year since the
Taliban took the reins of power by force in August 2021.
The latest evidence of chinks in the relationship appeared after Pak military’s air
strikes in Pak-Afghan border that killed a large number of Afghan civilians.
Pakistani military air strikes in the border provinces of Kunar and Khost killing over
45 innocent civilians, mainly women and children on April 16 had sparked new
controversy of violating Afghan sovereignty.
However, Islamabad claims that its security forces are being targeted from across
the border in Afghanistan and it was only taking action against Pakistan Taliban,
known as TTP (Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan), and ISIL (ISIS) affiliated fighters,
who operate along the porous border. Islamabad claims these groups have
carried out numerous attacks inside Pakistan since 2007.
While the Taliban Deputy PM Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar questioned
Islamabad’s decision to carry out air strikes inside the Afghan territory, Defense
Minister Mullah Yaqoub, Deputy Defence Minister Mullah Fazl and the Chief of
Army Staff Maulvi Fasihuddin Fitrat insisted on a stern response.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban government’s spokesman, issued a statement
condemning the air raids saying that “it is paving the way for enmity between
Afghanistan and Pakistan”. Pakistan, instead blamed Kabul for failing to stop
TTP’s activities responsible for a spike in cross-border attacks.
Pakistani military air raids sparked protests, with residents in Afghanistan’s Khost
and Kandahar provinces taking to the streets saying those killed in the attacks
were civilians. Qadirullah, one of the protesters, told that it was an act in violation
to the international law and a war crime, demanding the international community
to impose economic sanctions on Pakistan as it violated Afghanistan’s airspace
and challenged its territorial integrity. Former Nangarhar governor, Zia-ul-Haq
Amarkhail also said that Pakistani attacks were a clear invasion of Afghan territory
and violation of neighborliness during the holy month of Ramadan. Pashtun
Tahafuz Movement (PTM) chief Manzoor Pashteen and lawmaker Mohsin Dawar
have condemned Pakistani forces’ airstrikes in Afghanistan.
Afghanis are expressing their anguish in social media also. Former Afghan
Ambassador to Islamabad Abdul Salam Zaeef in a tweet said, “Any so-called
bombing on Afghan soil is an invasion of the country’s territory and we strongly
condemn it”. Abdul Sattar Saadat, former head of Independent Electoral
Complaints Commission, also said in a Facebook post, “Pakistani planes violated
our airspace and its bombardments also violated UN charter”.
The air strikes came while already /Taliban anger was brewing against Pakistan
for laying fencing along the 2,600 km border. All three Pashtun factions are
opposed to division of their ethnic community by Pakistan by imposing the British
Durand Line as the international border and erecting a security fence to
demarcate it. The Afghan Taliban government wants an open border for Pashtun
tribesmen inhabiting the region. Thousands of people usually cross the border
daily, including traders, Afghans seeking medical treatment in Pakistan and
people visiting relatives.
The porous border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan has been a stronghold
for the TTP for decades. Islamabad claims that the group has carried out umpteen
terrorist attacks in Pakistan and the officials in the country and the members of
the group found shelter in the neighbouring Afghanistan.
Taliban’s return to power in Kabul was celebrated by Islamabad, hoping that it
would rein in TTP and ISIL fighters, however, contrary to its expectations, it
experienced more attacks this year than during the same period last year.
Analysts say Pak military, which was providing a safe haven to Taliban leaders in
the past, is experiencing increased border operations. Taliban has, however,
maintained that it will not allow Afghan soil to be used against Pakistan.
Cross-border operations to take out TTP leaders based in Afghanistan have
reportedly been undertaken before and a couple of TTP leaders died in a strike
on a militant sanctuary in Kunar province. Recently a Pak Army helicopter was
shot at by the Afghans along the Durand Line in Nimroz Province, and the Pak
Military fired 56 artillery shells across the border in Kunar and Nuristan Provinces.
Despite Islamabad’s active part in installation of the Taliban regime in
Afghanistan, Kabul has taken Islamabad to UN Security Council for violating its
territorial integrity by launching air strikes in Kunar and Khost province. Naseer
Ahmad Faiq, the Charge d’Affaires at the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to
the United Nations, in a “letter of complaint” to the President of the Security
Council stated that the airstrikes by the Pakistani Air Force inside Afghanistan are
an “aggression against territorial integrity” of Afghanistan and is a “flagrant breach
of international laws”.
The bonhomie between the Taliban and Pakistani regime which was based on
unconstitutional means and support for violence to realize their respective
strategic and ulterior goals, is now tending towards its natural fate; such alliances
never last long