By Aamir Latif
Pakistani military has started fencing its over 1,600-mile (2,575-kilometer) long border with neighboring Afghanistan on the pretext of containing cross border movement of terrorists -- a move that Kabul has slammed.
Addressing a press conference in the garrison city of Rawalpindi Monday, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said the army was already engaged in fencing a 100-kilometer (161-mile) patch of the border between northeastern Afghanistan and Pakistan’s Bajur and Khyber Agency tribal regions.
“Pakistan’s [northwestern] Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province shares over 700 kilometers [435 miles] border with Afghanistan, which will be fenced in the first phase.
“In the second phase, the border between [southwestern] Balochistan province and [southern] Afghanistan will be fenced,” Ghafoor said.
Shakib Mustaghni, Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, said on Monday Pakistan has no right to make such unilateral moves, insisting that only people living on both sides of the line have the right to decide their fate.
Downplaying Kabul’s opposition to the move, the Pakistani military spokesman said Pakistan was fencing the border from its own territory, not the Afghan side.
“Pakistan…has the right to fence its border with any other country. I don’t think anyone should have a objection to that,” he said.
About ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said: “Bilateral talks with Afghanistan are continuing. We hope things will be improved in the wake of these talks,” he said, adding that Afghan leaders fully understand the importance of border management to contain the cross-border infiltration.
"Afghanistan should understand that border fencing was not only in Pakistan’s interest, but it will be more beneficial for Kabul,” he added.
Afghanistan does not recognize the Durand Line -- the de facto border region between the two countries -- on the grounds that it was created by a British colonial regime “to divide ethnic Pashtuns”.
Islamabad, however, insists the Durand Line is a permanent border between the two neighboring countries.
The 2,640-kilometer (1,640-mile) long border was established in 1893 in line with an agreement between India under British colonial rule and Abdur Rahman Khan, the then ruler of Afghanistan.
Kabul on Monday reiterated its long-standing stance on the Durand Line.
Mustaghni also warned Pakistan against alleged cross-border shelling like in eastern Kunar province on Sunday. “If such violations by Pakistan continue along the Durand Line, the government of Afghanistan and the security forces are ready to defend the country’s integrity and national sovereignty,” he said.
A series of terrorist attacks in the countries, for which both sides blame each other, has put further strain on an already tense relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan in recent months.
On Feb. 17, Pakistan unilaterally closed its border with Afghanistan “due to security reasons” following a spate of terror attacks, including a suicide bombing at a Sufi shrine in southern Sehwan town that left 90 people dead.
Pakistani officials including the military high-ups blamed the attacks on “Afghanistan-based terrorists”.
Pakistan and Afghanistan share 18 crossing points -- the most commonly used ones are Torkham and Chaman.
Pakistan hosts 1.5 million registered and over a million illegal Afghan refugees. The requirement of valid visas, mainly from Pakistan, was made compulsory since January this year.
*Shadi Khan Saif from Kabul, Afghanistan contributed to this report.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.