On 6th July 2011, at least 600 militants crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan and attacked two Pakistani villages. It was the latest in a series of alleged cross-border incidents in a month that have raised tensions between the two neighbors. Earlier on three occasions, hundreds of Afghan militants intruded ach time into Upper Dir and Bajaur agency resulting in heavy exchange of fire that lasted for few days. The militants were forced to retreat into Afghanistan after suffering heavy causalities. The Afghan militants crossed the Durand line from Kunar province from where the US troops were pulled back and left the border vulnerable. Reportedly, 56 members of the Pakistani security forces have been killed and 81 wounded in a series of militant attacks from Afghanistan over the past month.
It is difficult to independently verify what is happening in the remote mountain region that divides Pakistan and Afghanistan but it is for sure that there are Taliban strongholds on both sides of the border. Unfortunately, both the US and Afghanistan are not ready to take any action or the responsibility to prevent incursions from the Afghan side but persistently press Pakistan to do more to eradicate militant sanctuaries in its semi-autonomous tribal belt that is allegedly being used to launch attacks in Afghanistan and for sheltering militants.
Another sad fact is that Pakistan’s lodged protests with Afghan government over these intrusions are falling on deaf ears and are usually reciprocated with a set of accusations, warnings and threats from Afghanistan and the US as well. For instance, Washington’s special envoy to Afghanistan Marc Grossman had recently cautioned that Pakistan must ‘prove it wants an end to the war’ by preventing militants from hiding on its soil and launching attacks on the Afghan side of the border. Prior to this, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, soon after reaching Kabul from Islamabad last month, alleged that Pakistan had fired 470 rockets into Afghanistan’s two eastern provinces in June, which killed 36 Afghans including 12 children. On top of it, Afghan government spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi had warned the government of Pakistan of retaliation for killing Afghan citizens.
In the wake of Mohammad Zahir Azimi’s threat, Pakistan has actually been hit-hard in a series of cross-border attacks from Afghan side. It is absurd and condemnable. Pakistan is just an ally in global war against terrorism and not the sole flag-bearer. Irrespective of the fact that Pakistan, which is party to the US’ counter insurgency strategy in Afghanistan, is bearing the major brunt of this war in terms of lives of civilians and army personnel, economy and growing instability in the country, it is determined to extend unflinching support and cooperation to make peace efforts in the region a success story. Pakistan has repeatedly claimed to have eliminated the militant threat in Bajaur, one of seven districts in the tribal belt that Washington has called the global headquarters of Al-Qaeda, but attacks on troops have continued. It is because militants have taken refuge in Afghanistan where border-security measures are not up to the mark – following Pakistan’s military operations to drive them out of its Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Pakistan had conveyed its concerns to President Karzai during his visit to Islamabad in June over incursions from Afghan side as it is the responsibility of the Kabul government to stop the movement of militants on its side of the border. Instead of taking effective measures to prevent such incursions, Afghan authorities clumsily blamed Pakistan for cross-border attacks into Afghanistan notwithstanding that Afghanistan had scant control and knowledge about what the Afghan Taliban and Afghan border security guards are doing on its side of the Durand line. In view of these realities, it must be understood that accusations or threats to Pakistan would be anything but productive or helpful for ongoing peace efforts in Afghanistan. The reconciliation with Taliban is really about gaining a weighty option for Afghanistan. For the accomplishment of solid outcome in the reconciliation process with the Taliban, Afghanistan definitely needs the cooperation of Pakistan. It is for this reason that the issue of militancy and terrorism are so complicatedly interwoven around the boundary line of both the countries that it would require a major effort to draw out tangible results.
In a nutshell, it is a sobering moment for Afghan government to re-evaluate its own strategy and the security environment in Afghanistan instead of accusing Pakistan for border skirmisher if it really wishes that peace efforts bear fruitful results.