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Pak–Afghan diplomatic raw heats up over border shelling

AT

Kabul: Pakistan has summoned an Afghan diplomat over “unprovoked” artillery fire at their border as tensions have ratcheted up between the two countries in the past several weeks.

“Afghan Chargé d’Affaires in Islamabad was called to the foreign ministry and Pakistan’s strong condemnation was conveyed over recent incidents of unprovoked cross-border shelling resulting in a loss of life, injuries and damage to property,” the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Friday.

“It was reiterated that protection of civilians remained the responsibility of both sides and that recurrence of these incidents must be prevented,” it said.

At least six people were killed and more than a dozen wounded on Sunday in what Pakistan said was unprovoked fire from Afghan forces near the southern border town of Chaman in Balochistan province. A Taliban member was killed and 10 people were wounded on the Afghan side. A second round of shelling wounded at least 16 Pakistani civilians on Thursday.

Sunday’s deadly clash is believed to have erupted over the construction of a border checkpoint by Pakistan, which has been trying to fence its porous border with Afghanistan.

In Friday’s statement, Pakistan said it remained committed to “maintaining fraternal relations with Afghanistan” and described quiet borders as “intrinsic” to that objective.

Pakistani Minister of Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif told the National Assembly that Kabul had apologised for Sunday’s incident, local media reported, but violence erupted again four days later.

Border tensions between the neighbours have risen since August last year as Pakistan has alleged that armed groups such as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) use Afghan soil to launch attacks.

Thousands of people cross the border between Spin Boldak in Afghanistan and Chaman in Pakistan every day, including traders, Afghans seeking medical treatment in Pakistan and people visiting relatives.

Last month, a gunman fatally shot a Pakistani security guard at the Chaman border crossing, leading to its closure for a week.

A security guard was also wounded by shots fired at Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul this month in what Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called “an assassination attempt” on the head of the mission.

Pakistan’s foreign affairs minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, visited Kabul last month to discuss relations with Afghan interim government officials.

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