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Fractured by violence, Afghan-Pak ties head downhill

July 24, 2012 13:42 IST

The blame game between the two neighbouring nations over Taliban violence is nothing new, says Tahir Ali

While the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan is already fraught with distrust and mutual blame over the violence perpetrated by the Taliban, Kabul has warned that any cross-border activity could significantly worsen relations.

The warning came just days after the leaders of the two neighbours met in Kabul and discussed the situation in the conflict-torn region.

Kabul had claimed last Sunday that more than 300 heavy artillery shells and rockets were fired from Pakistani territory into Dangam district of eastern Kunar province, killing at least four people.

According to statements issued from the Afghan foreign ministry, the country's Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin summoned Pakistan's ambassador in Kabul to register protest over the incident.

"Any continuation of such reported shelling against Afghan villages could have a significant negative impact on bilateral relations," Ludin reportedly told Ambassador Mohammad Sadiq.

The Pakistan Army rejected Afghanistan's claims of having fired 400 rockets across the border.

An official of the army said, "Pakistani troops only responded and engaged militants from where they were attacked."

The official added that during the last one year, almost 15 cross-border attacks have been carried out by militants on Pakistani check-posts in Dir and Chitral, in which over 100 civilian and security forces personnel have been killed.

On Monday, according to Pajhwok Afghan News, Governor Syed Fazlullah Wahidi claimed that nearly 100 missiles had been fired into eastern Kunar province over the past 24 hours, despite a protest being lodged with the Pakistan ambassador a day earlier.

The blame game between the two neighbouring countries is nothing new; it started when the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

Afghanistan and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's forces have claimed that Taliban militants from Pakistani tribal areas, especially from Waziristan, cross the border and carry out attacks.

Kabul and the US have also claimed that the Haqqani Network's headquarters in based in North Waziristan and Pakistani border security forces turn a blind eye when militants from this particular group cross over to Afghanistan to 'wage jihad against the infidel forces' .

The US has been urging Pakistan to take action against the Haqqani Network but Islamabad has always rejected this demand.

Till 2009, Islamabad was blamed for supporting the Haqqani Network and other militant outfits, which avoid targeting Pakistani security forces.

In 2009, Pakistani security forces carried out a massive military operation against militants led by Maulana Fazlullah in Swat valley. These militants were affiliated to the Tehrik-e -Taliban Pakistan.

During the military assault, a number of militants were killed while the rest of them rushed to Kunar and Nuristan. Militants from Bajaur, who were under the commandership of Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, had already shifted to Kunar valley following the military operations of 2008.

The Pakistani Taliban was welcomed by Qari Zia-ur-Rehman, the head of Afghan Taliban in Kunar and Nuristan. Gradually, Maulana Fazlullah reunited his scattered men and started cross-border attacks over Pakistan security forces in Bajuar Agency and the adjoining Upper and Lower Dir districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Maulana Fazlullah's men not only targeted the security forces but also kidnapped some security personnel. They later released a video showing Pakistani troopers being beheaded.

In June, Fazlullah' men released a video showing severed heads of 17 soldiers.

"God has given us a great victory, we have killed them all. Four of the heads you can see are from Frontier Corps (paramilitary force), the rest are from the army," an unseen commentator said in the video.

Pakistan military has recently accused the US-led International Security Assistance Force and Afghan security forces of providing sanctuaries to Taliban across the border in Afghanistan.

Hilal, the Pakistan military's official publication, in its editorial note titled Terrorist Havens in Afghanistan, said that the terror groups are using sanctuaries in Afghanistan for a variety of purposes -- from training recruits to holding meetings.

"Training camps at which skills such as hand-to-hand combat and the handling of firearms are taught require a large area, which has been made available to them in Kunar," stated the editorial.

The Pakistan military publication has urged the West to look into this issue and address the concerns of Pakistan.

"By providing safe havens, Afghans and international security forces are making that area unsafe and insecure. It will ultimately damage Afghanistan in the longer run and will turn it weak," it said.

Tahir Ali In Islamabad